Antimicrobial resistance kills more than 1 million people around the world each year, according to a study published in the Lancet.
The study, led by researchers including from Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, showed that 1.27 million deaths in 2019 were the direct result of drug-resistant bacterial infections and 4.95 million deaths were associated with them representing a sharp jump from previous estimates of 700,000 deaths a year.
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has remained one of the greatest threats to public health in the 21st century.
The researchers also expressed concerns about the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, which, according to them, may fuel drug resistance with the increased intake of unnecessary antibiotics.
In the study, the team estimated the disease burden for 23 pathogens and 88 pathogen-drug combinations in 204 countries and territories in 2019.
Of the major bacterial pathogens covered in this study, only pneumococcal pneumonia is preventable through vaccination. Preventive vaccines against viral pathogens including influenza, respiratory syncytial virus, and rotavirus could be effective in reducing the need for treatment, thereby reducing inappropriate antibiotic consumption
The study also revealed that the burden of AMR-linked deaths as a share of total mortality varies widely around the world and is highest in western Africa, followed by eastern Africa, and South Asia.
The report noted serious data gaps in many low-income countries as well as limited testing capacity, inappropriate use, inadequate supplies of more expensive and targeted medicines, poor sanitation and the circulation of substandard and counterfeit drugs.
“AMR is a leading cause of death around the world, with the highest burdens in low-resource settings,” said researchers including Christopher J.L. Murray, from IHME.
“Understanding the burden of AMR and the leading pathogen-drug combinations contributing to it is crucial,” they added.
The researchers emphasised the need to expand microbiology laboratory capacity and data collection systems to improve understanding of important human health threats.
The team also called for enhanced infection prevention and control, increased vaccination including for bacterial pneumonia, reduced use of antibiotics in farming, cutting inappropriate use in humans such as to treat viruses, and fresh investment to develop newer replacement drugs.