Bacterial infections killed nearly eight million people, second-leading cause of death in 2019: Study

Bacterial infections killed nearly eight million people, second-leading cause of death in 2019: Study

The research looked at deaths caused by 33 common bacterial pathogens and 11 types of infection across nearly 204 countries and territories.

On Tuesday, a study published in the Lancet journal said that bacterial infections were the second leading cause of death worldwide and accounted for nearly one in eight of all deaths in 2019, a year before the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile in India, five common types of bacteria caused nearly 6.8 lakh (0.68 million) deaths in the same year.

At least 7.7 million people, 13 per cent of the global total, died due to common bacterial pathogens three years ago making it the second-leading cause of death after ischaemic heart disease (caused by narrowed coronary arteries reducing the supply of blood to the heart). The research looked at deaths caused by 33 common bacterial pathogens and 11 types of infection across nearly 204 countries and territories.

It was conducted under the Global Burden of Disease 2019 and Global Research on Antimicrobial Resistance (GRAM) studies framework and data by thousands of researchers worldwide and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Notably, five of the 33 bacteria which were responsible for at least half of the deaths are S. aureus, E. coli, S. pneumoniae, K. pneumoniae, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

The study shows the “full extent” of challenges posed by bacterial infections in global public health, said the study’s co-author and director of the US-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Christopher Murray. He also highlighted the importance of incorporating the data from this research in global health initiatives “so that a deeper dive into these deadly pathogens can be conducted, and proper investments are made to slash the number of deaths and infections.”

In Sub-Saharan Africa at least 230 per 100,000 population were from bacterial infections. At the same time, 52 per 100,000 deaths were noted from what the study called a “high-income super-region” which included countries from North America, Australasia and Western Europe. This comparative analysis was used to highlight the stark difference between low-income and high-income countries.

In the Indian context, A. baumannii (which can cause infections in the blood, urinary tract, and lungs) replaced Pseudomonas aeruginosa as one of the top five types that claimed 0.68 million lives across the country in 2019 alone, in the addition to the ones previously mentioned.

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Furthermore, E.Coli (commonly causes food poisoning) was deemed the deadliest among the pathogens which claimed over one million lives in the same year, in India. While globally, S. aureus (responsible for a range of illnesses) and E. coli were responsible for 864,000 deaths more than HIV/AIDS-related deaths on record three years ago.

Therefore, researchers have called for an increase in funding for building stronger health systems with greater diagnostic capabilities as well as implementing control measures and the use of vaccines to lessen the number of deaths. They also warned against “unwarranted antibiotic use” to ease the burden of disease caused by common bacteria while hand washing has been advised as one of the measures to prevent infections.

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