LivingAntibiotic resistance is the third leading cause of death...

Antibiotic resistance is the third leading cause of death in the world

Bacterial infections that do not respond to treatment are one of the leading causes of death worldwide . They kill millions of people every year.

A report recently published in the journal The Lancet shows that more people died from untreatable bacterial infections in 2019 alone than from HIV or malaria. Overall, bacterial resistance to antimicrobials played a major role in an estimated 4.95 million deaths worldwide, including 1.27 million directly caused by resistant infections. By comparison, COVID-19 killed an estimated 3.5 million people in 2021 , and HIV/AIDS and malaria are estimated to have caused 860,000 and 640,000 deaths, respectively, in 2019.

These figures are based on an analysis of data from more than 204 countries and territories by an international group of researchers called the Antimicrobial Resistance Collaborators. Specifically, to reach this conclusion, the researchers analyzed 471 million records, which included previous studies on superbugs, as well as hospital and health authority surveillance systems designed to track antibiotic-resistant infections. They then used this data to estimate the number of deaths that could have been prevented if the superbugs had been susceptible to antibiotics.


The growing threat of superbugs

The study, which exposes this great threat to humanity, suggests that, unless urgent measures are taken, the number of deaths will continue to increase dramatically in the coming years. Forecasts are that by 2050, superbugs will kill 10 million people annually, that is, it will multiply by 10 (but it could even be more, say the authors, because the death toll is accelerating faster than expected). ).

Superbugs are bacteria that have gradually evolved to become resistant to antibiotics due to drugs being over-prescribed or misused. Health authorities fear a ‘post-antibiotic’ era in which medical operations will become more deadly and dangerous as patients succumb to previously harmless bacteria. And it is that deaths occur due to previously treatable common infections, where the bacteria that cause them have become resistant to treatment.



How can we get infected with bacteria?

With habitual gestures such as a person coughing in front of us, taking contaminated food or drink or even through an open wound, through which they can pass into the bloodstream. Its consequences can be fatal, causing inflammation or sepsis.

The data in the report also reveals that deaths in the data were related to 23 pathogens (including E. coli, S. pneumoniae, and S. aureus ) and 88 pathogen-drug combinations in 204 countries and territories in 2019. In addition, young children were found to be the most affected, with a particularly high risk : one in five deaths were attributable to antimicrobial resistance in children under 5 years of age.

Among the bacteria responsible for lethal drug-resistant infections, the top three were Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae and Staphylococcus aureus , according to the researchers. These pathogens can cause dangerous infections in patients with weakened immune systems.

This is the first time such a global estimate has been made and the authors urge governments to take action.

Referencia: Antimicrobial Resistance Collaborators. Global burden of bacterial antimicrobial resistance in 2019: a system analysis. The Lancet. Published online January 19, 2022. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(21)02724-0.

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