Results of the most comprehensive analysis to date are pretty worrying.
It is widely known that bacteria resistance to antibiotics and other antimicrobial drugs poses a serious threat for human health all around the world. In 2016, it was estimated that 10 million people could die annually from antimicrobial resistance by 2050. However, the current figures are no less shocking.
According to a recent study, published in The Lancet, 4.95 million people died from diseases associated with antimicrobial resistance, in 2019. Of those, 1.27 million deaths were attributable directly to antimicrobial resistance. That is, bacteria resistance to antimicrobiotic agents killed more people than major diseases, like HIV and malaria, who accounted to more than 800.000 and 500.000 deaths, respectively.
«This data is terrifying and supports the urgent need to develop new antimicrobial compounds, which is our mission», declares Roberto Díez, Chief Executive Officer of Telum Therapeutics. Bacterial antimicrobial resistance occurs when changes in bacteria decrease the effectivity of drugs used to treat their infections. This process happens naturally, as it is a defense mechanism for microorganism. However, misuse of antibiotics can accelerate it.
To stop the spread of this menace, it is crucial to know the magnitude of antimicrobial resistance in each region of the world. The Lancet study is the most comprehensive to date on this topic. Researchers analyzed 204 countries, 23 pathogens and 88 pathogen-drug combinations. Results showed great disparities among regions. For instance, wester sub-Saharan Africa was the area with the highest mortality due to antimicrobial resistance, 27.3 deaths per 100,000 people. In contrast, Australasia had the lowest death rate, with 6,5 deaths per 100,000 people.
Moreover, Escherichia coli, followed by Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Acinetobacter baumannii, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa were the deadliest pathogens, accounting 929,000 deaths. In fact, antibiotic resistant E. coli alone was responsible for 200,000 of them. A dangerous bug! And with regard to the type of infection, thorax, bloodstream and abdomen were the most affected body parts.
This study is a call-to-action. We cannot wait for these pathogens to become a greater and more lethal threat. We must develop tailor-made strategies for each region, as one-size-fits-all approaches are unlikely to be effective, but we also need more resources and research. A commitment we share in Telum Therapeutics.
Antimicrobial Resistance Collaborators. «Global burden of bacterial antimicrobial resistance in 2019: a systematic analysis». The Lancet. 399 (10325), p629-655. Published on February 12, 2022.