An analysis of 204 countries shows that more than 1.2 million people have died from infections that have become resistant to treatment
A study published in The Lancet warns that antimicrobial resistance (AMR) “poses a major threat to human health around the world,” as an overprescription of treatment for curable infections makes drugs less effective against serious illness.
The US-led research, which looked at the situation in 204 countries, estimated that 1.2 million deaths were directly caused by AMR in 2019, while drug-resistance bacteria played a role in up to five million fatalities on top of that.
That is more than the number of people who died from AIDS (860,000) and malaria (640,000) in the same year. The AMR deaths were mainly caused by infections in the respiratory system, like pneumonia, and the bloodstream, which result in the development of sepsis.
The assessment was made after examining patient records in hospitals, studies, and other data sources, with young children most at risk, as one in five fatalities linked to AMR were among those aged five and younger.
“Spending needs to be directed to preventing infections in the first place, making sure existing antibiotics are used appropriately and judiciously, and to bringing new antibiotics to market,” Dr. Ramanan Laxminarayan from the Centre for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy said in response to the study.
The Lancet study comes months after UK health officials warned that AMR risks creating a “hidden pandemic,” as harmful bacteria could develop to evade treatment, putting the public at risk.
The UK Health Security Agency stated that one in five people with an infection in 2020 had an illness that was AMR, potentially leading to serious complications or even hospital admission due to ineffective drugs.