– This is the script of CNBC's news report for China's CCTV on November 17, Tuesday.
Welcome to CNBC Business Daily, I'm Qian Chen.
The World Health Organisation (WHO)'s headline-hitting warning this Monday about the threat of antibiotic overuse has led to questions about how bad this is going to impact on both individuals and the global population as a whole.
According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2014, the overuse of antibiotics for patients in U.S. hospitals is contributing to the rise of so-called superbugs.The dangers from overprescribing antibiotics in hospitals are twofold, said Dr. Arjun Srinivasan, associate director for health care-associated infection prevention programs at the CDC, during an interview with CNBC.
First, patients may not need them and could suffer side effects. More important, however, is the danger of creating drug-resistant bacteria, known as superbugs, that are becoming increasingly commonplace.
"This is specific to the patients who get overprescribed," he said. "They run the risk of being susceptible to the superbugs at some point."
The CDC report cites a study from the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America and the Infectious Diseases Society of America that shows that antibiotics treatment can be incorrect in up to 50 percent of the instances in which antibiotics are prescribed.
Most prescriptions for antibiotics are written for urinary tract infections, lung infections and infections caused by drug-resistant staphylococcus bacteria, such as MRSA, said the CDC.
One-third of the prescriptions for vancomycin and one-third of antibiotics prescribed to treat urinary tract infections were ordered without proper testing or evaluation. Or they were prescribed for too long, the report stated.
The CDC contends that drug-resistant bacteria in animals can remain on meat and spread to humans when meat is not handled or cooked properly.
The vast majority of antibiotics in the U.S. go to animals, not people. FDA figures showed that 51 tons of antibiotics are consumed daily in the United States. Eighty percent of them are used in agriculture and for the raising of fish and other sea life.
More than 2 million people a year in the U.S. get sick from the superbugs according to the CDC, resulting in 23,000 deaths.
That analysis by the RAND Corporation, which looked at seven scenarios, estimates that "the world population by 2050 will be between 11 million and
444 million lower than it would have been otherwise in the absence of" antimicrobial resistance "if the problem is not tackled."
"The lower bound is a result of a scenarios where resistance rates have been successfully kept at a relatively low rate, while the upper bound reflects a scenario for a world with no effective antimicrobial drugs," according to RAND Europe, which was commissioned to study the issue by the Independent Review of Antimicrobial Resistance.
And the world economy would see a cumulative loss of $2.1 trillion to $124.5 trillion by the year 2050 due to deaths and prolonged periods of sickness affecting labor efficiency, according to the scenarios analyzed by RAND. "We estimate that by 2050 the world economy would be smaller by between 0.06 percent and 3.1 percent again depending on the scenario."
Last year, after President Obama signed Executive Order 13676, in an effort to combate Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, a few businesses are taking actions as well. A McDonald's Corp shareholder group is renewing its call for the fast-food chain to stop buying any meat from animals raised with antibiotics vital to fighting human infections, while Subway may do the same soon.
Srinivasan said the CDC report is a wake-up call for hospitals and their staff-one he said they are beginning to get.
"They are willing to work on this," he said." When we show them the data, they realized the situation. I do expect to see antibiotics used only when they are really necessary."
CNBC's Qian Chen, reporting from Singapore.