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  • Industrial-scale animal farming contributes to antibiotic-resistant infections in humans.

    Industrial-scale animal farming contributes to antibiotic-resistant infections in humans. | Photo: Reuters

Published 12 December 2014

Governments are urged to address one of the biggest challenges for humanity, which affects poorer countries more than rich ones.

By 2050, the human population could be reduced by 11 to 444 million if growing bacterial resistance to antibiotics is not tackled soon, warned a study released on Thursday by the investigation center RAND Europe.

While growing bacterias and viruses like Escherichia coli or Staphylococcus aureus become resistant to antibiotics, scientific research has not come up with new classes of drugs over the past 25 years, observe the authors, who developed seven different scenarios depending on the rate of future drug resistance and available alternative treatment.

If no treatment is found by 2050, they estimate that 444 million people will die globally by 2050.

Addressing this issue would cost an estimated US$100 billion each year, according to the investigation, commissioned by the Independent Review on Antimicrobial Resistance. The global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) would be reduced up to 3 percent in the worst-case scenario – or US$124 trillion. Yet this would only correspond to the loss of effective labour, without including the costs of increased healthcare, among many others, the study claimed.

Currently, such bacteria is responsible for the death of about 700,000 people each year, and a deterioration of the situation could especially affect developing countries. In Nigeria, for instance, it could kill a quarter of the population by 2050, warns the report, urging countries to start taking the probem seriously. 

The poultry and pork industries would have some responsibility for antibiotic resistance: various scientific studies have asserted that a widespread use of antibiotics for extended periods in these factories can be a systematic source of antibiotic resistance in bacteria that also attacks humans. As pigs and chickens are packed up in confined boxes, they are more prone to diseases, which is why industries prefer to use preventive medication.

See more: US Lawmakers Warn Over Antibiotic Abuse in Poultry Industry

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