Call for superbugs to be listed as a cause of death

| 26 November 2019
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Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is causing an increasing number of deaths every year. Lord Jim O’Neill said: “The case for having death certificates to include AMR as a cause of death is quite compelling”.

O’Neill, chair of the Chatham House think tank, led a government-commissioned review on AMR in 2016. The report warned that if we do nothing to stop the spread of superbugs, the 700,000 deaths a year caused by them could rise to 10 million – killing more people than cancer.

Since 2016, the number of AMR-related deaths in Europe has increased from an estimated 25,000 a year to 37,000 – a faster rate than was previously predicted.

At the end of last month, Public Health England issued a press release saying that there are 165 new antibiotic resistant infections every day in England. Their latest English Surveillance Programme for Antimicrobial Utilisation and Resistance (ESPAUR) report shows that there were an estimated 61,000 antibiotic resistant infections in England during 2018 – a nine per cent rise from the previous year.

O’Neill’s report said: “There is an increasingly robust consensus that unnecessary use of antibiotics in animals and agriculture is a significant concern for human health.”

This global crisis reflects the worldwide overuse of antibiotics in humans and animals. The amount used in livestock is vast and often includes medicines defined as medically important for humans. In the US, 80 per cent of antibiotics are sold for use in animals, to treat infection and as growth promoters.

The best way to tackle the antibiotic-resistance crisis is to remove the cause of the problem – the overuse of antibiotics in human medicine and livestock farming.

Find out why livestock farming is at the heart of superbug crisis here.

About the author
Dr. Justine Butler
Justine joined Viva! in 2005 after graduating from Bristol University with a PhD in molecular biology. After working as a campaigner, then researcher and writer, she is now Viva!’s head of research and her work focuses on animals, the environment and health. Justine’s scientific training helps her research and write both in-depth scientific reports, such as White Lies and the Meat Report, as well as easy-to-read factsheets and myth-busting articles for consumer magazines and updates on the latest research. Justine also recently wrote the Vegan for the Planet guide for Viva!’s Vegan Now campaign.

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