Superbugs will kill nearly 400,000 Canadians by 2050

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Powerful superbugs increasingly resistant to antibiotics will wreak havoc in Canada, killing nearly 400,000 Canadians by 2050, suggests a report made public Tuesday.

The grim 268-page report states that deadly bacteria will also put a CAN$400 billion ($302 billion) dent in the country's gross domestic product.

The report, "When Antibiotics Fail: The growing cost of antimicrobial resistance in Canada," produced by an expert panel, said the rise of the superbugs will likely grow by 40% by 2050 and increase hospital expenses by CAN$120 billion ($90 billion).

"This is almost as big, if not bigger, than climate change in a sense because this is directly impacting people," said University of British Columbia microbiology professor Brett Finlay, chairman of the panel. "The numbers are just staggering."

He warned that to counter the threat, "It's time to do something now."

The report was commissioned by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Over-prescription of antibiotics is a major cause of superbugs growing resistant to the drugs that would otherwise kill them, while international travel allows the superbugs to infiltrate countries worldwide.

In 2018, the report estimated that the resistant strain of infections killed 14,000 Canadians. The threat is not exaggerated-the panel was more careful in its methodology than a report by British economist Jim O'Neill, who predicted as many as 10 million deaths a year by 2050s.

As the death toll grows, it may change Canadian society and its outlook.

"Discrimination may be targeted at those with resistant infections or deemed to be at risk of infection," the report states. "Canadian society may become less open and trusting, with people less likely to travel and more supportive of closing Canada's borders to migration and tourists."

The report said Canada has been slow to react to the pending threat. The government should create a federal and provincial system to track the number of superbug cases and ensure the careful use of antibiotics to keep them effective in treating the superbugs.

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