Over time, some bacteria develop resistance to the antibiotics used to control them and eventually become impervious to them. They are called “superbugs.” It is estimated that 1.5 million people die each year from these resistant microbes.
The cost of dealing with these microbes are high. People with resistant infections spend more time in the hospital, require more care from doctors and nurses, are treated with more expensive drugs, and often have to be isolated from other patients. In the United States, it costs an average of $16,000 to treat a patient with Staphylococcus aureus that is susceptible to the antibiotic methicillin, with an 11.5 percent chance of death; if the bacteria are resistant, the cost jumps to $35,000 and the chance of the patient dying more than doubles. A study from the European Medicines Agency in the European Union, which includes England, estimated the cost to EU health care systems at €900 million ($1.06 billion).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States have estimated that resistance costs the American health care system about $20 billion per year, to which productivity losses add a further $35 billion. It is estimated that the total costs of antimicrobial resistance worldwide is about $57 billion for health systems, with the reduction in world productivity valued at $174 billion.