Study: Drug-resistant bacteria kill 1.2 million globally

“Superbugs” have joined the ranks of the world’s leading infectious disease killers

Via AP news wire
Thursday 20 January 2022 16:27
Antibiotic Resistance Global Deaths
Antibiotic Resistance Global Deaths

Antibiotic-resistant germs caused more than 1.2 million deaths globally in one year, according to new research that suggests that these “superbugs" have joined the ranks of the world's leading infectious disease killers.

The new estimate, published Thursday in the medical journal Lancet, is not a complete count of such deaths, but rather an attempt to fill in gaps from countries that report little or no data on the germs' toll.

The World Health Organization has been citing a global estimate — several years old — that suggested at least 700,000 people die each year due to antimicrobial-resistant germs. But health officials have long acknowledged that there's been very little information from many countries.

Antimicrobial resistance happens when germs like bacteria and fungi gain the power to fight off the drugs that were designed to kill them. The problem is not new, but attention to it has grown amid worries about a lack of new drugs to fight the germs.

WHO officials said in a statement that the new study “clearly demonstrates the existential threat” that drug-resistant germs pose.

In the last few decades, health officials have tried to step up efforts to find funding and solutions. That includes trying to get a better handle on the toll. In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control in 2019 estimated that more than 35,000 Americans die each year from antibiotic-resistant infections — or about 1% of the people who develop such infections.

In the new paper, the researchers estimated deaths linked to 23 germs in 204 countries and territories in 2019. They used data from hospitals, surveillance systems, other studies and other sources to produces death estimates in all parts of the world.

They concluded that more than 1.2 million people died in 2019 from antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections, which are a large subset of a resistance problem also seen in drugs that target fungi and viruses.

The estimate — which includes drug-resistant tuberculosis deaths — suggests the annual toll of such germs is higher than such global scourges as HIV and malaria.

"Previous estimates had predicted 10 million annual deaths from antimicrobial resistance by 2050, but we now know for certain that we are already far closer to that figure than we thought," said study co-author Christopher Murray, of the University of Washington in a statement.

Christine Petersen, a University of Iowa epidemiologist, described the new paper's methodology as “state of the art.” But she noted the authors were nevertheless forced to make large assumptions about what's happening in places where data is scarce, such as sub-Saharan Africa.

“They really have no idea in those areas,” Petersen said.

___

The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in