“If you thought Covid was bad, you don’t want anti-microbial resistance,” Dr Paul De Barro, biosecurity research director at Australia’s national science agency, the CSIRO.
The emergence of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), including drug-resistant bacteria, or “superbugs”, pose far greater risks to human health than Covid-19, threatening to put modern medicine “back into the dark ages”, Australian scientist has warned.
Already, antibiotic resistance is estimated to cause at least 700,000 deaths globally a year - though this is likely a severe underestimate. That figure has been projected to reach 10 million deaths annually without intervention.
“I don’t think I’m exaggerating to say it’s the biggest human health threat, bar none. Covid is not anywhere near the potential impact of AMR. We would go back into the dark ages of health.”
Social distancing can’t help with AMR: bacteria exist in food, water, and air, they are all around on everyday surfaces. Three hundred and fifty million deaths could be caused by AMR by 2050, the WHO has estimated,
“If you consider how antibiotics now play a role in virtually every part of our health system: simple things like scratches could kill you, childbirth could kill you, cancer treatment, major surgeries, diabetes, in the background in all of these, is often the use of antibiotics,” De Barro said. “That will all become very very challenging, if you are doing it in an environment where the antibiotics you use no longer work.
“You will end of with massive pressure on the health system – exactly the sort of things you are seeing with Covid – think about intensive care units, hospital stays, access to medical treatment outside of the hospital system, the use of antibiotics in nursing, in treating pneumonia, all of these come into play.”
The increased use of antibiotics to combat the Covid-19 pandemic will strengthen bacterial resistance and ultimately lead to more deaths during the crisis and beyond, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned.