Superbugs to ‘kill millions’ by 2050 unless countries act

Strains of bacteria that resist the effects of drugs designed to kill them are developing as humans consume ever more antibiotics. (AFP)
Updated 08 November 2018

Superbugs to ‘kill millions’ by 2050 unless countries act

  • Drug-resistant bacteria killed more than 33,000 people in Europe in 2015
  • Strains of bacteria are developing that resist the effects of drugs designed to kill them

PARIS: Millions of people in Europe, North America and Australia will die from superbug infections unless countries prioritize fighting the growing threat posed by bacteria immune to most known drugs, experts predicted Wednesday.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) warned of “disastrous consequences” for public health care and spending unless basic hospital hygiene is boosted and unnecessary antibiotic use slashed.
Drug-resistant bacteria killed more than 33,000 people in Europe in 2015, according to new research published separately this week.
In a landmark report, the OECD said 2.4 million people could die from superbugs by 2050 and said the cost of treating such infections would balloon to an average of $3.5 billion a year in each country included in its analysis.
Michele Cecchini, lead on public health at the OECD, said that countries were already spending an average of 10 percent of their health care budgets on treating antimicrobial-resistant (AMR) bugs.
“AMR costs more than the flu, more than HIV, more than tuberculosis. And it will cost even more if countries don’t put into place actions to tackle this problem,” he said.
As humans consume ever more antibiotics — either through prescriptions or agriculture and livestock products given medicines to stave off infection — strains of bacteria are developing that resist the effects of drugs designed to kill them.
In low and middle-income countries, resistance is already high: in Indonesia Brazil and Russia up to 60 percent of bacterial infections are already resistant to at least one antibiotic.
And the growth of AMR infections is predicted to be between four and seven times faster by 2030 than currently.
“Such high resistance rates in health care systems, which are already weakened by constrained budgets, will create the conditions for an enormous death toll that will be mainly borne by newborns, very young children and the elderly,” the report said.
“Even small cuts in the kitchen, minor surgery or diseases like pneumonia could become life-threatening.”
Perhaps more worrying is the prediction made by the OECD that resistance to so-called 2nd- and 3rd-line antibiotics — break-glass-in-case-of-emergency infection treatments — will balloon by 70 percent by 2030.
“These are antibiotics that as far as possible we don’t want to use because we want these as back up,” Cecchini said.
“Essentially, we are using more when we should use less and we are running out of our best options in case of emergency.”
The group, which advises the World Health Organization on public health initiatives, said the only way to avert disaster was to implement immediate, sector-wide changes in behavior.
The report called on health care professionals to ensure better universal hygiene standards in hospitals and clinics by insisting all staff wash their hands and conform to stricter safety regimes.
It also suggested resistance could be fought with better and quicker testing to determine if an infection is viral — meaning antibiotics are useless — or bacterial.
New swab tests can give a result in a matter of minutes, and Cecchini also put forward the idea of “delayed prescriptions” to dent antibiotic overuse by making patients wait three days before picking up their antibiotics — roughly the time it takes for a viral infection to run its course.
In trials of the technique, two thirds of patients given delayed prescriptions for antibiotics never collected their medicine.
The OECD said such changes would cost as little as $2 per person per year and would save millions of lives and billions of dollars by mid-century.
“They would decrease burden of AMR in these countries by 75 percent,” said Cecchini. “It would pay for itself in a few months and would produce substantial savings.”


Lebanese luxury soap brand sees boost in sales amid pandemic

Updated 27 May 2020

Lebanese luxury soap brand sees boost in sales amid pandemic

DUBAI: In 1999, Syrian-Palestinian fragrance connoisseur Hana Debs Akkari pursued her passion project in Lebanon by founding a sophisticated soap company called “Senteurs d’Orient,” or “Fragrances of the East” in French.

Akkari envisioned that her handcrafted soaps would symbolize the beloved floral essences of the Middle East, particularly the Levant, which is reportedly the world’s oldest soap-making region.

With the pandemic caused by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Akkari’s small, family-run luxury soap business has witnessed an increased demand in their natural products nearly twenty years since its founding.

Portrait of Sarah Akkari, CEO of Senteurs d’Orient. (Supplied)

“Since the pandemic was declared, we saw a spike in our online sales,” said Lebanese-Canadian and New Yorked-based Sarah Akkari, Hana’s daughter and CEO of Senteurs d’Orient, to Arab News. “People are washing their hands more often, and their hands are becoming drier as a consequence. So, they’re also looking for a natural soap, such as the ones we offer. Our antibacterial soaps are packed with different nourishing ingredients like glycerin, Shea butter and Vitamin E.”

Operating from Lebanon, Senteurs d’Orient’s factory is run by a diligent team of chemists and artisans, many of whom are women as female education and empowerment in the workforce is at the heart of the company’s ethos.

Engraving soaps at the Lebanon factory. (Supplied)

After mixing the chemical-free ingredients by hand, the soaps are air-dried for 10 ten days and later machine-molded and carefully hand-wrapped. True to the company’s name, the delicate floral scents of gardenia, jasmine, tuberose, and rose of Damascus draw their inspiration from eastern gardens.

To show support for the selfless medical workers, some of whom reached out to Akkari and expressed interest in Senteurs d’Orient’s soaps, she recently donated nearly 500 packages to doctors and nurses from four American hospitals — two in Los Angeles, one in New York and another in New Jersey.

Each package is an ‘Oriental Trio Box’, containing three bars of soap, the shapes and engravings of which are inspired by the decoration of ‘maamoul’, the Levant region’s quintessential pastry.

“When you’re facing this type of crisis and you’re receiving emails from doctors and nurses or anyone on the frontlines, it’s a not a request you can reject,” explained the 32-year-old entrepreneur. “It’s something that we really wanted to be part of and it brought us much satisfaction knowing we could contribute in this way.”

The company has expanded its international presence and line of therapeutic products, creating bath salts, multi-purpose oils and thinly sliced, single-use soap leaves. (Supplied)

Under the leadership of Akkari, the company has expanded its international presence and line of therapeutic products, creating Mediterranean orange blossom bath salts, multi-purpose oils and thinly sliced, single-use soap leaves of amber and tea flower.

It is the authenticity of Senteurs d’Orient’s products that Akkari hopes will come through.

“You feel the fragrance is coming straight from the flower,” she said.