Superbugs can take a whopping 10 million lives a year globally by 2050 if there was no sustained effort to contain antimicrobial resistance, an expert committee set up by the United Nations (UN) warned on Tuesday.

According to a report submitted by the Inter-Agency Coordination Group (IACG), set up in March 2017 with experts from different countries as members, alarming levels of resistance have been reported in countries of all income levels on Monday. As a result, common diseases are becoming difficult to treat and lifesaving medical procedures riskier to perform.

Currently, 7,00,000 people die because of drug-resistant diseases globally a year, including 2,30,000 deaths from multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis, it said.

In high-income countries alone, 2.4 million people could die between 2015 and 2050 due to antimicrobial drug resistance, which is being exacerbated by the abuse and overuse of existing antimicrobials agents such as antibiotic, antiviral, antifungal as well as antiprotozoal drugs.

The IACG is headed among others by World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and UN Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed.

“The economic damage of uncontrolled antimicrobial resistance could be comparable to the shocks experienced during the 2008-2009 global financial crisis,” the report cautioned.

The report said preparing and implementing national antimicrobial resistance action plans is the first step towards tacking the drug resistance, but there is a need to address the financing and capacity constraints faced by many resource-poor countries.

The IACG called on all Member States to phase out the use of antimicrobials on the WHO’s highest priority list as growth promotion agents and recommended the setting up of a One Health Global Leadership Group on Antimicrobial Resistance with a joint secretariat from WHO, UN Food and Agriculture Organisation and World Organisation for Animal Health, or OIE.

Strengthening infection prevention and control in health care facilities and farms, boosting surveillance, regulatory frameworks, professional education and oversight of antimicrobial prescription and use, and immediately stopping the use of the antimicrobials as growth promoters are among the major steps that need to be taken, the IACG report said.

Similarly, additional effort, investments and incentives are needed to spur innovation in antimicrobial medicines, diagnostics, vaccines, waste management tools, safe and effective alternatives to antimicrobials and alternative practices in human, animal and plant health.

“Global leaders must turn warm words of support into tangible actions and carry this momentum forward to help us address this most urgent of global health challenges,” said Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, in a Twitter message.