Tue. May 24th, 2022


More than 1 million people around the world die each year from antibiotic-related microbial infections, according to a study that estimates the extent of a “silent pandemic” now more deadly than malaria or HIV.

The analysis published in the medical journal Lancet estimates that 1.27 million deaths in 2019 were the direct result of drug-resistant bacterial infections and 4.95 million deaths were associated with it. This represents a sharp jump from previous estimates of 700,000 deaths per year.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has been described by experts as one of the biggest threats to public health in the 21st century. The figures underscore the dangers of bacteria developing resistance to existing antibiotics due to overuse – including during the Covid-19 pandemic – against a background of few new vaccines and drugs under development to prevent or treat infections.

Hanan Balkhy, assistant director at the World Health Organization, said: “I still think it’s an underestimation of reality. AMR is truly an existential threat to modern medicine in high-, middle- and low-income countries. ”

Bar graph showing the number of deaths by disease in 2019.  Antimicrobial resistance attributed to 1.27 million deaths, more than HIV and malaria

Chris Murray, co-author of the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, one of the co-authors, said the question of what proportion of the 4.95 million patients with resistant infections died as a direct result, was “hotly contested” but thought it was closer to the figure of 1.27m quoted in the analysis.

The study – funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wellcome Trust and the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care – is based on modeling based on a wide range of data sources, including hospital records, laboratory results and pharmacovigilance data and specialists in public health.

The analysis revealed that the burden of AMR-linked deaths as a share of total deaths varies widely around the world and is highest in West Africa, followed by East Africa and South Asia.

While rates of antibiotic use are higher in other regions, including the Middle East, the researchers concluded that the deaths are the combination of both the extent to which resistant bacteria circulate and the underlying frequency of critical infections such as lower respiratory, blood flow and intra. – abdominal infections.

They also pointed to limited testing capacity, inappropriate use, insufficient supplies of more expensive and targeted medicines, poor sanitation and the circulation of substandard and counterfeit medicines.

The authors called for improved prevention and control of infections, increased vaccination, including for bacterial pneumonia, reduced use of antibiotics in farming, reduced inappropriate use in humans such as treating viruses, and fresh investment to develop newer substitutes.

Jim O’Neill, a former British minister who chaired a 2016 review that estimated antimicrobial resistance will cost the world economy $ 100tn by 2050 without further action, said: “These numbers are much larger than we assumed. This should result in much greater concern. “They suggest Covid-19 is just a warm-up for what could happen if we do not sort out AMR.”

He called for greater involvement of financial policymakers with health professionals around global health threats, improved disease surveillance systems and increased funding, including for the WHO.

O’Neill is among a number of experts who last year created a financial and health council by the G20 to help tackle pandemics, but which have faced resistance from a number of emerging economies.



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