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Home / Health & Science

Health experts raise red flag over deaths from antibiotic resistance

Health & ScienceBy Mactilda Mbenywe | Wed,Jan 26 2022 07:00:00 UTC | 2 min read

 

 

Girl holds medicine capsules [Courtesy]

Resistance to antibiotics is now the leading cause of death globally, higher than HIV or malaria, a study has revealed.

The study done in over 200 countries and territories revealed the true scale of antibiotic resistance, with 1.27 million deaths directly attributable annually to antimicrobial resistance (AMR), which occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time and no longer respond to medicines.

This makes infections harder to treat, increasing the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death.  

Further, the study reveals that common infections such as lower respiratory tract infections, bloodstream infections, and intra-abdominal infections are now killing hundreds of thousands of people every year because bacteria have become resistant to treatment.

The study titled Global burden of bacterial antimicrobial resistance in 2019, based on the Global Research on Antimicrobial Resistance (GRAM) paper, was published in The Lancet journal.

Health systems in sub-Saharan Africa and around the world depend on effective antibiotics.

AMR is threatening the ability of clinicians to keep patients safe from infections and undermining their ability to carry out essential medical practice safely, including surgery, childbirth and cancer treatment since infection is a risk following these procedures. 

Of interest is the impact antimicrobial resistance has in Africa where over 255,000 people died as a direct result of AMR in 2019 – around half of them children under five in Sub-Saharan Africa, a region where a particularly high number of cases are a result of vaccine-preventable pneumococcal bacterial disease. 

The data shows that the leading pathogens in Sub-Saharan Africa are S. pneumoniae (40,400 deaths) and K. pneumoniae (50,800 deaths). 

And though everyone is at risk of antimicrobial resistance, infants and children are disproportionately affected with 129,000 deaths being under five mostly from infections like E. coli acquired through contaminated food and water.

But Dr Mirfin Mpundu, Director of ReAct Africa, laments: “The momentum that the global community built following the AMR Global Action Plan in 2015 has slowed down and there has not been a proportionate response to the gravity of the problem.” Past projections estimated that as many as 10 million annual deaths from AMR could occur by 2050.

In September 2020, the African Union Heads of States and Governments endorsed a common position on AMR and across the continent, 33 countries have recognised the threat and created National Action Plans in response.

The study comes in the wake of the pandemic demonstrating the importance of global commitments to infection and control measures.  

 

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