Antibiotic resistance kills more than a million people a year

(ORDO NEWS) — A global study published in the Lancet estimates that in 2019, about 1.3 million deaths were directly caused by drug-resistant bacterial infections.

Antibiotic resistant bacteria are considered one of the biggest threats facing modern medicine. The overuse of antibiotics (often without a doctor’s prescription) has resulted in bacterial resistance rising every year. This makes common infections such as sepsis and pneumonia more difficult to treat.

Mohsen Naghavi of the University of Washington in Seattle and colleagues developed a model to estimate how many people died in 2019 from bacterial infections that could previously be treated were it not for antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Such a global study has never been done before.

The model is based on the medical records of 471 million people with antibiotic-resistant infections from 204 countries. The team reviewed published studies and medical records to obtain the fullest possible set of data on AMR.

“For countries for which there was very little data, we calculated the numbers based on the regional model we developed,” Mohsen Naghavi.

The researchers found that around 1.3 million deaths worldwide could be directly related to AMR. They also found that another 3.65 million deaths were associated with people who had conditions that showed some form of AMR.

“We can’t say with certainty that these deaths were due to antimicrobial resistance, but some of them could be,” says Nagavi.

When both groups are taken into account, AMR is the third leading cause of death globally in 2019 after ischemic heart disease and stroke.

More than 70 percent of AMR-related deaths in the study were associated with resistance to beta-lactam antibiotics such as penicillin. “We were not surprised because we know how often these drugs are prescribed in clinics,” explains Nagavi.

The key to combating antimicrobial resistance is a multifaceted approach, Naghavi says.

“Developed countries need to prescribe fewer antibiotics and develop more vaccines for infectious diseases. It is also important to give livestock less antibiotics, ensure better hygiene in hospitals, and improve surveillance for antimicrobial resistance,” Nagavi concluded.

Do you know that…

WHO considers bacterial resistance to antibiotics one of the biggest threats of the 21st century. We have entered the post-antibiotic era, which means that hundreds of thousands of people every year will become infected and die from infections that were previously easily treatable with antibiotics.


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