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British superbug outbreak ‘could kill 80,000’

Exclusive: A Government report warns that tens of thousands could die because of new strains of bacteria and viruses resistant to drugs

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Up to 80,000 people in Britain could die in a single outbreak of an infection due to a new generation of superbugs, according to an official Government forecast.

In total, some 200,000 people could be infected if a strain of disease resistant to antibiotics took hold, according to official forecasts which reveal the potential casualty toll for the first time.

Within 20 years, outbreaks of common flu could become “serious” for patients as drugs become useless and routine surgery could be curtailed due to the risk of infection, it is warned.

Scientists are increasingly concerned about the impact of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), which makes routine antibiotics or antivirals drugs ineffective against diseases that have formerly been brought under control.

It would mean that the huge gains made since the discovery of penicillin in curbing conditions such as pneumonia and tuberculosis and rendering surgery and childbirth safe could be lost.

David Cameron has warned that such a scenario would see the world “cast back into the dark ages of medicine”.

The new figures are given in the National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies, a document compiled by the Cabinet Office that assesses the challenges posed by terrorism, disease, natural disasters and industrial strife.

For the first time, it contains an assessment of the dangers posed by AMR, which it describes as a “particularly serious” issue for the UK.

The document says: “Without effective antibiotics, even minor surgery and routine operations could become high-risk procedures, leading to increased duration of illness and ultimately premature mortality. Much of modern medicine, for example organ transplantation, bowel surgery and some cancer treatments may become unsafe due to the risk of infection. In addition, influenza pandemics would become more serious without effective treatments.”

It adds: “The number of infections complicated by AMR are expected to increase markedly over the next 20 years. If a widespread outbreak were to occur, we could expect around 200,000 people to be affected by a bacterial blood infection that could not be treated effectively with existing drugs, and around 80,000 of these might die.

“High numbers of deaths could also be expected from other forms of antimicrobial resistant infection.”

Already, there are no longer any effective drugs against one strain of E.coli, a bacterial infection that can prove lethal.

Analysts have also looked at the potential casualties from an increasing drug resistance in Klebsiella pneumonia, a form of bacterial pneumonia, and Staphylococcus aureus, a skin infection, as well as HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.

Read more » The Telegraph
See more » http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/11517558/British-superbug-outbreak-could-kill-80000.html