1.2 million deaths from antibiotic-resistant germs

Status: 01/20/2022 07:47 a.m

Experts have been warning of the dangers of antibiotic-resistant bacteria for years. A study now shows that, according to estimates, more than a million deaths worldwide in 2019 were directly attributable to such germs.

According to one estimate, more than 1.2 million people around the world died directly from an infection with an antibiotic-resistant pathogen in 2019. In almost five million deaths, such an infection was at least partly responsible for death, reports an international group of experts in the specialist magazine “The Lancet”. Antibiotic resistance is one of the most common causes of death worldwide.

For their study, the researchers analyzed data from specialist literature, hospital databases, monitoring systems and other sources for the year 2019. Using statistical modelling, the scientists predicted the disease burden for different regions, including those for which no data were available. The present analysis is the most comprehensive so far. Overall, the researchers looked at 204 countries and regions, 23 pathogenic bacteria and 88 combinations of bacteria and antibiotics. The weaknesses of their study are the limited availability of data in some parts of the world and the different sources for the data, which can lead to bias.

Doctors usually speak of antibiotic resistance when patients do not react to an antibiotic, i.e. when the disease-causing bacteria are not destroyed by the antibiotic – contrary to what was hoped. According to the study, 4.95 million deaths were linked to an antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection, even if the direct cause of death was possibly different. 1.27 million people died directly from an infection with a resistant bacterium – without resistance, these deaths were therefore avoidable. For comparison: An estimated 680,000 people died from HIV/AIDS in 2020, and 627,000 from malaria.

Common resistances in pneumonia

Problems with resistance were therefore particularly common in infections of the lower respiratory tract, such as pneumonia. These alone caused 400,000 deaths. A particularly large number of people died as a result of blood poisoning and appendicitis because the infection could not be controlled with antibiotics due to resistant pathogens.

The germs most commonly causing resistance problems included Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae and Streptococcus pneumoniae. The dreaded hospital germ MRSA – methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus – alone caused 100,000 deaths.

According to the study, countries in western sub-Saharan Africa were hardest hit. There were almost 24 deaths for every 100,000 people there, which could be directly attributed to an infection with a resistant pathogen. In rich countries, the rate was 13 deaths per 100,000 people. Children under the age of five are most at risk.

“Reduce use of antibiotics”

“These new data reveal the true extent of the antimicrobial resistance problem worldwide and send a clear signal that we must act now,” said co-author Chris Murray. “We must use this data to correct course and drive innovation if we are to stay ahead in the race against antibiotic resistance.” The aim must be to avoid infections as far as possible through improved hygiene or vaccinations. In addition, the inappropriate use of antibiotics must be reduced – for example in viral infections that generally do not respond to antibiotics. Therefore, new antibiotics would have to be developed and brought to market.


01/20/2022 • 08:22 am

Europe is one of the few

Regions where reserve drugs such as colistin are still allowed to be used in livestock. In India, for example, no longer.


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