Antibiotics are powerful drugs that can prevent and treat infections, but they are becoming less effective as a result of drug resistance. Resistance develops because the bacteria that antibiotics target can evolve ways to defend themselves against these drugs. When antibiotics fail, there is very little else to prevent an infection from spreading.
Unnecessary use of antibiotics in both humans and animals accelerates the evolution of drug-resistant bacteria, with potentially catastrophic personal and global consequences. Our best defences against infectious disease could cease to work, surgical procedures would become deadly, and we might return to a world where even small cuts are life-threatening. The problem of drug resistance already kills over one million people across the world every year and has huge economic costs. Without action, this problem will become significantly worse.
Following from their work on the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, William Hall, Anthony McDonnell, and Jim O'Neill outline the major systematic failures that have led to this growing crisis. They also provide a set of solutions to tackle these global issues that governments, industry, and public health specialists can adopt. In addition to personal behavioural modifications, such as better handwashing regimens, Superbugs argues for mounting an offence against this threat through agricultural policy changes, an industrial research stimulus, and other broad-scale economic and social incentives.
Foreword by Sally Davies
Part I. The Problem of Drug Resistance
1. When a Scratch Could Kill
2. The Rise of Resistance
3. Failures in Tackling Drug-Resistant Infections
Part II. Solutions to Counter Antimicrobial Resistance
4. Incentives for New Drug Development
5. Prevention Is Better than Cure
6. Reducing Unnecessary Use of Antibiotics in Humans
7. Agriculture and the Environment
8. Next Steps
William Hall, a public policy professional, served as Senior Policy Advisor for the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance. Anthony McDonnell, a researcher at the Wellcome Trust and the London School of Economics, was Head of Economic Research for the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance. Jim O’Neill, an internationally recognized economist, served as Chair of the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance.
"Jim O'Neill helped take the issue of antimicrobial resistance from the science lab to the global stage. He and coauthors Anthony McDonnell and William Hall impart a compelling story about the battle against what could become a mass killer of humanity."
– David Cameron, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
"Addressing antimicrobial resistance requires the kind of thoughtful yet action-oriented analysis that this vitally important book provides. The messages in Superbugs should be heeded by individuals, government officials, and policymakers around the world."
– Larry Summers, former director of the White House National Economic Council
"With superb insight into one of the greatest health threats to humankind, Superbugs highlights the need for an integrated, multifaceted approach to treating drug-resistant infections. This riveting book makes a compelling case for action."
– Peter Piot, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine