The BBC news website ran a piece earlier this month by Dr Michael Mosley, which included the following claim:

The problem is not, of course, confined to India. It's estimated that antibiotic-resistant infections currently kill at least 700,000 people a year.


This is projected to rise to 10 million by 2050.

Source: BBC: Could ants tackle the 'antibiotic apocalypse'?

No source is cited for these figures. Are they supported by evidence?

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    The problem is not, of course, confined to India. It's estimated that antibiotic-resistant infections currently kill at least 700,000 people a year. I read this as not 700,000 in India but worldwide.
    – aqwert
    Commented May 23, 2017 at 4:18
  • I am well aware of the problem, I raised this question because those figures seem a little on the high side, even for a nation as populous as India. Commented May 23, 2017 at 4:53
  • I can definately confirm its not just India. I got put in hospital after what I've decided must have been a dirty scalpel during an operation ended up in cellulitis. For weeks on end they just pumped me with every antibiotic you could imagine and the damn bug was resistant to all of them. They got it in the end, but it was a hell of a gnarly journey to go on. The doc reckoned I was on the verge of that thing getting in my blood, and that could have been a catastrophic, possibly fatal, development. And I'm rather fond of being alive.
    – Shayne
    Commented Apr 8, 2022 at 16:35

1 Answer 1


These estimates are worldwide, with this being the source (AMR = AntiMicrobial Resistance):

deaths attributable to AMR every year compared to other major causes of death: AMR now 700,000 (low estimates); AMR in 2050 10 million
Antimicrobial Resistance: Tackling a crisis for the health and wealth of nations

The 700k number was apparently calculated by extrapolation, which is not very reliable:

The scientists led by Marlieke de Kraker found the Review’s global deaths estimate not credible because it was based on incomplete data from the European Antimicrobial Resistance Network (EARS-Net), which records instances of infections in 895 European hospitals.

The new study argues this data is not representative of infections across Europe as a whole. This is because a third of the hospitals that report to EARS-Net are large specialist hospitals, whose patients will naturally be carrying more infections than patients in, for example, a smaller hospital or a GP’s surgery.

The AMR Review had extrapolated infections data from the 895 European hospitals to calculate the global number of infections, which the new study calls “a crude approach”.

British study's claim 10 million people a year could die because of antibiotic resistance dismissed as 'unreliable'

Here's what data I was able to find about India specifically:

Although accurate estimates of the overall burden of resistance are not available, it is estimated that 58,000 neonatal deaths are attributable to sepsis caused by drug-resistance to first-line antibiotics each year [4].

Antibiotic Resistance in India: Drivers and Opportunities for Action

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    That has to be one of the worst histograms in history :-)
    – Sklivvz
    Commented May 23, 2017 at 9:21
  • OK, so the figures are based on some research (however dubious their accuracy), but they relate to international deaths not just in India? Commented May 24, 2017 at 11:53
  • @GeoffAtkins Yes, the number is certainly worldwide (a comment on your question says the same). And yes, it's not some number they pulled from the air. However, I feel there's too little info to have an accurate estimate.
    – Laurel
    Commented May 24, 2017 at 18:12
  • Thank you for clarifying. Although to be perfectly honest, given the justified concern for the problem, over-estimating the deathtoll is perhaps a wise PR move. Commented May 24, 2017 at 18:23

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