The rise of "superbugs" resistant to drugs has been caused partly by the increased use and misuse of antibiotics and other antimicrobial drugs in the treatment of people and in farming. If drug-resistant infections in people and animals are allowed to spread unchecked, some 28 million people will fall into poverty by 2050, and a century of progress in health will be reversed, the World Bank said.
Greater quantities of antibiotics are used in farming than for treating people, and much of this is for promoting animal growth rather than treating sick animals, economist Jim O'Neill said in a report in May commissioned by the British government. The O'Neill report estimated that drug-resistant infections could kill more than 10 million people a year by 2050, up from half a million today, and the costs of treatment would soar.
Farmers too will be greatly affected. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates 60,000 tonnes of antimicrobials are used in livestock each year, a number set to rise with growing demand for animal products. The World Bank estimates that by 2050, global livestock production could fall by between 2.6 percent and 7.5 percent a year, if the problem of drug resistant superbugs is not curbed.
In dollars and cents, which is the only language capitalism understands, the World Bank estimates that an investment of some $9 billion a year is needed in veterinary and human health to tackle the issue. The expected return on this investment is estimated to be between $2 trillion and $5.4 trillion ... or at least 10 to 20 times the cost, which should help generate political will necessary to make these investments.