10 million deaths by 2050 from antimicrobial resistance?

This morning, the Prime Minister of the UK announced the first findings from the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, chaired by economist Jim O’Neill. The numbers are eye-popping: 10 million deaths by 2050, with equally huge global economic costs. These numbers dwarf the estimates in the 2013 CDC Threat Assessment.

All microbial resistance is included in these estimates, bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi. Much of the global burden of resistance will come in malaria, TB and HIV, in addition to bacteria.

These numbers are based on model projections created by KPMG and Rand Europe for the Review Commission. Like all models, they are open to criticism, but many are viewing these estimates as a “worst case” scenario, assuming the governments of the world don’t achieve global collective action to address the problem of antimicrobial resistance.

But this might not represent the worst case. The models do not include true pandemics such as the 1918 influenza. Last year, no one would have guessed that 2014 would be the year of Ebola.

My bottom line: these model estimates require much careful additional work, but correctly identify the magnitude of the problem and the potential macroeconomic impact. It should also help us frame an appropriate response.


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