Friday, May 27

“Silent pandemic”: antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections kill more people than malaria and AIDS


More than 1.2 million people died worldwide in 2019 as a direct consequence of infections caused by bacteria resistant to antibiotics, according to the largest study on this topic to date.

This figure is equivalent to an average of almost 3,500 deaths every day.

The poorest countries are the most affected, but resistance to antimicrobial drugs is a health threat global, including Latin America, according to the report.

The report calculated that, in general, such resistance played some role in diseases responsible for almost five million deaths in 2019, including the 1.27 million deaths caused directly by antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

A benchmark study on the subject in 2014 estimated that the antimicrobial resistance (AMR) It would cause 10 million deaths per year in 2050, explained to BBC Mundo the Mexican scientist Gisela Robles Aguilar, a researcher in the global burden of disease and resistance to antimicrobials at the Big Data Institute of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, and a of the study authors.

“Now we know that we are much closer to reaching that figure than we thought, since in 2019 we estimate that 4.95 million deaths were related to AMR.”

In the same year, AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is estimated to have caused globally 860,000 deaths and malaria 640,000.

The authors of the study say that it is necessary to urgently invest in new drugs and use existing ones more responsibly.

The overuse of antibiotics for minor infections in recent years has led to them becoming less effective against serious infections.

People are dying from common infections that were once treatable because the bacteria that cause them have become resistant to treatment.

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Children, the most vulnerable

The estimate of global deaths from resistant bacterial infections was based on an analysis of 204 countries by an international team of researchers led by the University of Washington in the United States.

The study was published in the medical journal The Lancet.

Little girl in India drinking water
One in 5 deaths related to antibiotic-resistant bacteria was recorded among children under 5 years of age. (Photo: GETTY IMAGES)

Most deaths from resistant bacteria were due to lower respiratory tract infections, such as pneumonia, and blood infections, which can cause sepsis.

The bacteria Staphylococcus aureus Methicillin-resistant, or MRSA, was particularly deadly, according to the study.

This strain of bacteria Staphylococcus aureus has become resistant to several antibiotics, including penicillin and methicillin

Escherichia coli and other bacteria were also linked by the study to high levels of drug resistance.

The researchers say that young children are most at risk.

About One in five deaths related to antibiotic resistance was among children under the age of 5 years.

The highest number of deaths took place in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia (24 out of 100,000 deaths and 22 out of 100,000 respectively).

The lowest incidence was in high-income countries (13 per 100,000 deaths).

In Latin America

Of the 1.2 million deaths that were a direct result of infections by resistant bacteria, “89,100 occurred in Latin America in 2019″, told BBC Mundo Robles Aguilar.

“The highest number of deaths was recorded in the central region of Latin America, made up of Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama and Venezuela, with 28,300 deaths directly attributable to AMR, and 109,000 deaths related to RAM.

“The countries of the Andean region, Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru, also face the challenge of combating antimicrobial resistance, since 11% of deaths from infection in these countries were caused by an organism resistant to antibiotics,” added the scientific.

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Gisela Robles Aguilar
Mexican scientist Gisela Robles Aguilar, a researcher in antimicrobial resistance at the University of Oxford, is one of the authors of the study. (Photo: COURTESY GISELA ROBLES AGUILAR)

Regarding the type of infections, the scientist pointed out that “The agency responsible for the largest number of deaths in the region was Escherichia coli, which caused approximately 1 in 6 deaths attributable to AMR in the region”.

“This organism is commonly found in the digestive system, but increased exposure to antibiotics contributes to the development of resistance mechanisms. Thus, common infections, such as urinary system infections, are more difficult to combat,” he explains.

Another organism that is kept under surveillance in the Latin American region is Staphylococcus aureus, which was responsible for 15,300 deaths in the Latin American region, mainly causing hospital-acquired blood infections.

urgent action

For Professor Chris Murray, a researcher at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington and one of the study’s authors, the new data reveal the true scale of antimicrobial resistance worldwide.

Different antibiotic tablets or pills
Existing antibiotics need to be used more responsibly, and more invested in bringing new drugs to market, according to the study authors. (Photo: GETTY IMAGES)

They are also a clear signal that immediate action is required “if we want to stay one step ahead in the race against antimicrobial resistance,” the expert noted.

Dr. Ramanan Laxminarayan, of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics, and Policy, in Washington, DC, said global spending to tackle resistant infections must rise to levels seen for other diseases.

“Spending should be directed at preventing infections in the first place, making sure that existing antibiotics are used appropriately and judiciously, since bring new antibiotics to market“, he pointed.

Sally Davies, an expert on antibiotic resistance and a former senior health adviser to the British government, has said in the past that resistance is a “silent pandemic” that the world must deal with.

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Urgent and global actions during the current covid pandemic can show the way forward.

“One of the great achievements of the last two years is the commitment to adopt infection prevention and control measures, basic hygiene measures and vaccination campaigns. These types of measures are also necessary to combat the growing resistance of organisms to antibiotics, and now is a good time to encourage a similar commitment by different social actors,” Gisela Robles Aguilar told BBC Mundo.

“Access to information in a fast, open and transparent manner has contributed to combating covid-19 and is essential to monitor the increase in the use of antibiotics in the health sector as well as in the veterinary and food production”, added the scientist.

“We need to constantly measure antibiotic use and resistance in order to understand the problem of resistance and generate solutions. And, of course, the responsible use of antibiotics is a task in which we can all contribute”.

It may interest you:

* WHO authorized the drugs baricitinib and sotrovimab to treat Covid
* Antibiotic resistance, more deadly than HIV or malaria
* Why obese women are at higher risk of getting seriously ill from Covid


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