Growing antibiotic resistance could cause 10 million deaths a year by 2050, report warns

Report by economist Jim O'Neill says situation should be treated as "economic and security threat"

Caesarean sections, joint replacements and chemotherapy could become too dangerous for medics to carry out if growing resistance to antimicrobial drugs is not tackled, a new report has found.

In a global action plan presented to the British government, economist Jim O'Neill says the situation should be treated as an "economic and security threat".

Health experts have raised concerns about the growing resistance to antimicrobial drugs, which include antibiotics - the best known - along with antivirals, antimalarial drugs and antifungals.

The report says the process for determining whether or not a patient needs antimicrobial drugs has not changed for decades, adding: "Rapid diagnostics would be able to reduce use of antibiotics by letting doctors know if a patient has an infection and if this infection is viral or bacterial, meaning that antibiotics will only be given out to patients who need them."

Over-use of the drugs by humans and in animals has contributed to growing resistance, while a new class of antibiotic has not been seen for decades because developing such drugs is commercially "unattractive" to pharmaceutical companies.

Mr O'Neill likened the present situation to "facing a growing enemy with a largely depleted armoury".

If nothing is done, it is projected that the problem will cause 10 million deaths each year by 2050 and will cost the world more than €89.1tn in lost output between 2014 and 2050.

British Health Minister Jane Ellison said the review "should be a wake-up call for the world".

Among the suggestions in the report, which was commissioned in 2014, are that drug companies should be rewarded with €1.3bn if they develop new antimicrobials, but fined if they do not try.

Other recommendations include reducing the use of drugs in farming and faster progress on banning or restricting antibiotics from being used in animals if they are vital for human health.

Lord O'Neill also proposes that doctors should be forced to perform diagnostic tests on patients before prescribing the drugs, rather than dishing them out "like sweets".

Dr Margaret Chan, director of the World Health Organisation, said: "Importantly, the review tackles the burning need to find incentives that can get new products into the pipeline.

"If not, the scenario it paints for 2050 will surely jolt the last remaining sceptics into action."