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Swiss Re is concerned that the “super-virus” outweigh the antibiotics


Hubert Roy

November 28, 2018 11:30

What happens if antibiotics do not manage to counter the “super-virus” ? The risk of a pandemic would then be quite real, according to Swiss Re.

According to data compiled by the reinsurer, 131 109 tons of antibiotics were produced worldwide in 2013. In 2030, it is expected that this figure will reach 200 235 tonnes.

Common use in agriculture

“Use of antimicrobial agents has become a routine in the middle of agriculture, said Thomas Van Boeckel, of thefederal polytechnic School of Zurich, at an event held by Swiss Re on the topic. The antibiotics that are used to allow the animals to grow more rapidly, increasing the profits of the food industry. “

The problem, says Mr. Van Boeckel, is that bacteria and viruses adapt. They can then find a human host, who will affect others in turn, particularly among the young and the elders. “We cannot under-estimate the risk to public health that derives from it,” he says.

The cost of antibiotic resistance

In the United Kingdom, the National Health Service has invested more than 180 million pounds to counter the super-virus, reports Swiss Re. In the United States, the Center for Disease Control estimates that in 2013, antibiotic resistance has generated additional costs of $ 20 billion (G$), which, in turn, have resulted in the loss of productivity of 35 G$.

What is the main cause of this resistance to antibiotics ? Many experts interviewed by Swiss Re believe that the overuse of antibiotics is to point the finger. We must therefore come to change the practices of doctors, they argue.

“There are countries too lax that you can buy antibiotics otc. Without counting the online pharmacies not authorized to sell. It is necessary to change it, ” said Swiss Re Jennifer Rohn, a professor and biologist at University College, London, United Kingdom.

The long treatments relate more to the pharmas

The investment structure of the pharmaceutical industry is also to blame, according to experts interviewed by Swiss Re. They pointed out that the industry invests billions of dollars in treatments against cancer, arthritis, cholesterol, and blood pressure. These are drugs that patients must take for decades, unlike antibiotics, which only lasts a few days. Therefore, it is much more profitable for the pharmaceutical industry to invest in drugs that require long-term treatment.

The reinsurer advance so as to avoid pandemics, it will be necessary to find innovative ways of financing to ensure that antibiotics remain effective in the future.

An example of innovation

Swiss Re gives for example the initiative of a health insurer German, of which she does not reveal the identity, which has invested in a technology fund dedicated to the health. However, it is illegal for an insurance company in Germany to invest in such segments. This insurer is thus associated to a bank to guarantee the risk of their investment.

“Such innovative solutions, including those in insurance, could provide an important support in the war on the bacteria pandemic. But as these discussions have only just begun, it may take a lot of time before the industries of agriculture, and pharmaceuticals are ready to join the front, ” says Bernd Wilke, senior director, emerging risks, at Swiss Re.

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