‘Superbugs’ kill more in one year than Covid in the entire pandemic

‘Superbugs’ kill more in one year than Covid in the entire pandemic

Bacterial infections are already the second leading cause of death worldwide. They are behind one in eight deaths. Only ischemic heart disease (narrowing of the heart’s arteries) outnumbered diseases caused by a group of 33 pathogens. In total, 7.7 million people died from them in 2019.

Of all of them, half were due to the devastation of just five of these “superbugs.” These pathogens, which are increasingly developing resistance to the antibiotics available to combat them, have killed more than Covid-19 in a year since the pandemic was declared almost three years ago.

These figures were collected in a study conducted by the scientific journal with international reference in medical matters, The Lancet, and published this Tuesday. The work measures for the first time the impact of bacterial infections around the world with very impressive results, completing another published earlier this year on the resistance bacteria are developing to existing drugs used to fight them. In this case, this reality is quoted, already treated as a global health challenge but not explicitly analyzed.

What the study clarifies are the first and last names of the bacteria that make the world’s population the oldest. Of the 113.7 million infection-related deaths, 7.7 million were caused by the 33 bacteria studied in the above paper.

The five deadliest

Of all, nearly four million (50%) bore the mark of “Staphylococcus aureus” (1.1 million deaths), a microorganism normally found in contaminated food and causing symptoms similar to gastroenteritis; “Escherichia coli” (950,000), better known as E-Coli, which is also transmitted in contaminated food; “Streptococcus pneumoniae”, associated with pneumonia or meningitis, among others (829,000); “klebsiella pneumoniae” (790,000), a bacterium invading the digestive tract; and ‘Pseudomonas aeruginosa’ (559,000) which can cause various infections in the lungs, urinary tract, mucous membranes, etc.

Refining the data further, more than 75% of the 7.7 million bacterial deaths were due to three syndromes: lower respiratory, circulatory, and peritoneal and intra-abdominal infections, although a total of 11 major types of infectious syndromes were analyzed including death from sepsis.

By age, gender and origin

The data includes all ages and genders from 204 countries and territories, based on 343 million individual records for 2019. Death rates varied by location, as did the deadliest pathogens.

Sub-Saharan Africa had the highest mortality rate, at 230 deaths per 100,000 people. In comparison, large, high-income regions, including countries in Western Europe, North America and Australasia, had the lowest death rate, at 52 cases per 100,000 people.

In relation to age, the bacteria were deadliest in adults over 15 years of age. aureus’. Based on this data, Dr. José Miguel Cisneros Herreros, researcher at the Clinic for Infectious Diseases, Microbiology and Parasitology and the Bacterial and Antimicrobial Resistance Group of the Seville Institute of Biomedicine (IBiS), a review collected by the Science Media Center (SMC) from Spain. “In clinical (practice) this is not the case,” in relation to the bacterial count mentioned. Therefore, he suggests that this may be due to the risk of bias in part of the study, which the authors themselves acknowledge due to the difficulty in collecting data from some regions.

As with the other age groups, most deaths in children aged 5 to 14 years were associated with “salmonella”; In infants older than newborn but younger than 5 years, Streptococcus pneumoniae was the deadliest pathogen with 225,000 deaths.

A guide to investment orientation

In light of this incident, the work highlights the reduction of bacterial infections as a global public health priority. “These new data reveal for the first time the full extent of the global challenge,” said Christopher Murray, study co-author and director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington Medicine.

The authors claim that stronger health systems, along with greater capacity for laboratory diagnostics, control measures and optimization of antibiotic use, are needed as a “key” challenge to reducing the burden of disease caused by these causes.

With this data, for the first time, there would be a guide that could better direct investments in drug research, since this group of diseases caused by the bacteria mentioned above does not always get the attention they seem to deserve.

More deaths than AIDS but less investment

The work of The Lancet, led by the aforementioned North American university, compares the deaths caused by diseases such as AIDS and the investment they receive from institutions and laboratories, with a frequency much lower than the problem that they uncover.

Antonio Juárez, professor of microbiology at the University of Barcelona, ​​in comments to SMC, points out that “only the first two pathogens (‘s. aureus’ and ‘E. coli’) caused many more deaths than AIDS in 2019 (864,000. ), but the economic resources to fight this last disease were almost 50 times greater than those to fight infections caused by ‘E. coli.'” So he believes this study could help clarify priorities in the fight to redefine against these infections.


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