Superbug infections led to the death of 1.2 million people in 2019

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The increase in the number of drug-resistant bacteria, popularly called superbugs, endangers the health of humans and animals and is one of the biggest threats to global health today. The problem is directly associated with the excessive and incorrect use of drugs available for the treatment of infections.

A large global study, published in the scientific journal Lancet, revealed that around 1.2 million people died in 2019 from antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections. The number of deaths is higher than that of diseases such as AIDS or malaria.

The analysis, which considered data from 204 countries and territories, points out that resistance has become one of the main causes of death in the world. According to the study, deaths have been caused by common and treatable infections, such as respiratory and bloodstream diseases resulting from the resistance to treatment that the bacteria have acquired.

“These new data reveal the true scale of antimicrobial resistance around the world and are a clear signal that we must act now to combat the threat. Previous estimates predicted 10 million annual deaths from antimicrobial resistance by 2050, but we now know for sure that we are already much closer to that number than we thought,” said study co-author Chris Murray, a professor at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. from the University of Washington, in the United States, in a statement.

The estimates cited by the researcher are part of a British government report led by economist Jim O’Neill published in 2016. The publication pointed to a worrying global scenario for bacterial resistance to antibiotics. According to the document, 700,000 people die each year worldwide due to infections caused by resistant bacteria.

At that time, researchers estimated that if changes are not made at the global level, antibiotic resistance could lead to the death of 10 million people per year from 2050, which is one death every 3 seconds.

“We need to leverage this data to correct course and drive innovation if we are to stay ahead in the race against antimicrobial resistance,” Murray said.

What does the new report say?

The study published in the Lancet estimates the number of deaths related to 23 disease-causing agents (pathogens) and 88 pathogen-drug combinations in 204 countries and territories in 2019.

Statistical modeling was used to produce estimates of the impact of antibiotic resistance around the world. 471 million individual records obtained from systematic reviews of the literature, hospital systems, surveillance systems and other data sources were used.

In the analysis, the researchers estimated the disease burden from two contexts. At first, deaths caused directly by the phenomenon of resistance were evaluated, those that would not have occurred if the infections were susceptible to drugs and, therefore, more treatable.

In the second scenario, deaths associated with resistance were calculated, when a drug-resistant infection was implicated in the deaths, but resistance itself may or may not have been the direct cause.

The analysis showed that antibiotic resistance was directly responsible for an estimated 1.27 million deaths worldwide and associated with an estimated 4.95 million deaths in 2019. AIDS and malaria are estimated to have caused 860 thousand and 640 thousand deaths, respectively, in the same period.

Drug resistance in lower respiratory infections such as pneumonia has had the greatest impact on the disease burden, causing more than 400,000 deaths and being associated with more than 1.5 million deaths.

Drug resistance in bloodstream infections, which can lead to sepsis, has caused an estimated 370,000 deaths and has been linked to nearly 1.5 million deaths. Resistance in the case of intra-abdominal infections, commonly caused by appendicitis, directly led to about 210,000 deaths and was linked to about 800,000 lives lost.

Of the 23 disease-causing agents studied, drug resistance by six specific microorganisms (E. coli, S. aureus, K. pneumoniae, S. pneumoniae, A. baumannii e P. aeruginosa) directly caused 929,000 deaths and was associated with 3.57 million victims.

Need for immediate actions

The study underscores that antibiotic resistance poses an even greater threat to children. About one in five deaths attributable to the problem occurred in children under five.

Deaths directly caused by resistance are estimated to be highest in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, with 24 deaths per 100,000 population and 22 deaths per 100,000 population, respectively.

Resistance was associated with 99 deaths per 100,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa and 77 deaths per 100,000 people in South Asia. In high-income countries, the phenomenon directly led to 13 deaths per 100,000 population and was associated with 56 deaths per 100,000 people.

The report highlights the need to scale up measures to combat antibiotic resistance and outlines immediate actions for managers and health authorities. Suggestions include optimizing the use of existing antibiotics, taking more steps to monitor and control infections, and providing more funding to develop new antibiotics and treatments.

The researcher at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), Ana Paula Assef, says that resistance raises the costs of treatments, prolongs the stay of patients in hospitals and increases mortality rates. As antibiotics become ineffective, the number of infections that become more difficult to treat will also increase.

“With the depletion of therapeutic actions, infections that today are known to have a simple treatment, may, in the future, cause greater damage to the body, as we will have fewer resources to fight them”, he said.

Recommendations for the general population include using antibiotics only as prescribed by a healthcare professional, following medical guidelines for recommended times and dosages, not sharing or using leftover antibiotics, in addition to maintaining individual hygiene habits and washing hands. food before consumption.

Reference: CNN Brasil

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