A 'widespread' superbug outbreak in the U.K. could kill 80,000 people

Prime Minister says world could be 'cast back into the dark ages of medicine' if an outbreak occurs

As many as 80,000 people could die if the United Kingdom experienced an outbreak of an antibiotic-resistant blood infection, according to a report from Britain's National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies.

Superbugs could kill more than cancer by 2050

According to the report, a widespread outbreak of a bacterial blood infection that existing antibiotics could not treat would affect an estimated 200,000 people in the U.K. The report notes that routine surgeries would become high-risk procedures and operations like organ transplants would be too dangerous to perform. 

More broadly, the report stated that the number of antibiotic-resistant infections would "increase markedly" over the next two decades, which could lead to "increased duration of illness" and "high numbers of deaths." Furthermore, outbreaks of other diseases, such as the flu, would become more threatening.

CDC: Hospitals need to scale back antibiotic use. Here's how.

Sally Davies, England's chief medical officer, calls the problem a "ticking time bomb," and Prime Minister David Cameron says the world could be "cast back into the dark ages of medicine" unless the problem is remedied soon.

The Obama administration last month released the first-ever White House plan aimed at slowing antibiotic resistance over the next five years through major investments and policy changes at a range of federal health agencies (Rawlinson, The Guardian, 4/5; BBC News, 4/6; Cuthbert, Discovery News, 4/6).

The takeaway: A new warning by a government agency in Britain said a superbug outbreak in the country could result in 200,000 infections—and 80,000 people could die.

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