G20 health ministers meet: spectre of antibiotic resistance looms

G20 health ministers meet: spectre of antibiotic resistance looms

More dangerous than war. And harder to control too.

Photo: Shutterstock

Photo: Shutterstock

G20 health ministers will begin two days of talks in Berlin on Friday focussed on controlling infectious disease and antibiotic resistance.

The summit comes days after the World Health Organisation announced a new outbreak of Ebola in the DR Congo. But perhaps more worrying are recent reports of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in Hyderabad—the pharmaceutical capital of India.

The spread of these microorganisms is caused and accelerated by pharmaceutical companies dumping waste water containing residues of antibiotics into the open sewage. Scientists estimate that up to 90% of people travelling to India return carrying antibiotic-resistant bacteria, spreading them across the globe.

A 2014 report commissioned by the UK government revealed that at least 50,000 people succumb to antibiotic-resistant bacteria annually. The report goes on to warn that, if left unchecked, these organisms could kill 10 million around the world each year by 2050 and cause a reduction of 2 to 3.5% of GDP—equivalent to $100 trillion.