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BACKGROUND:Antibiotic resistance (ABR) poses a major threat to health and economic wellbeing worldwide. Reducing ABR will require government interventions to incentivise antibiotic development, prudent antibiotic use, infection control and deployment of partial substitutes such as rapid diagnostics and vaccines. The scale of such interventions needs to be calibrated to accurate and comprehensive estimates of the economic cost of ABR. METHODS:A conceptual framework for estimating costs attributable to ABR was developed based on previous literature highlighting methodological shortcomings in the field and additional deductive epidemiological and economic reasoning. The framework was supplemented by a rapid methodological review. RESULTS:The review identified 110 articles quantifying ABR costs. Most were based in high-income countries only (91/110), set in hospitals (95/110), used a healthcare provider or payer perspective (97/110), and used matched cohort approaches to compare costs of patients with antibiotic-resistant infections and antibiotic-susceptible infections (or no infection) (87/110). Better use of methods to correct biases and confounding when making this comparison is needed. Findings also need to be extended beyond their limitations in (1) time (projecting present costs into the future), (2) perspective (from the healthcare sector to entire societies and economies), (3) scope (from individuals to communities and ecosystems), and (4) space (from single sites to countries and the world). Analyses of the impact of interventions need to be extended to examine the impact of the intervention on ABR, rather than considering ABR as an exogeneous factor. CONCLUSIONS:Quantifying the economic cost of resistance will require greater rigour and innovation in the use of existing methods to design studies that accurately collect relevant outcomes and further research into new techniques for capturing broader economic outcomes.

Original publication




Journal article


BMC medicine

Publication Date





The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Protection Research Unit in Immunisation, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London, WC1E 7HT, UK.


Humans, Anti-Bacterial Agents, Cohort Studies, Drug Resistance, Microbial