Studies: AMR killed nearly 5M in 2019, and it’s getting worse

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is already a leading cause of fatalities, and it is threatening to surpass even cancer as a cause of death, according to two new studies.

More than 1.2 million people died as a direct result of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in 2019, which is more than the number of deaths caused by AIDS (860,000) and malaria (640,000), and overall nearly 5 million fatalities that year can be linked to AMR, according to an analysis published in The Lancet last week.

The majority of AMR deaths in 2019 involved respiratory system and blood stream infections, according to the study: “Lower respiratory infections accounted for more than 1.5 million deaths associated with resistance in 2019, making it the most burdensome infectious syndrome.”

A study to be published next month shows the situation is getting worse: “AMR is projected to be responsible for approximately 10 million deaths worldwide in the upcoming 30 years, surpassing the death due to cancer (8.2 million), diabetes (1.5 million) and other factors,” according to a ScienceDirect pre-publication of a cross-study.

The COVID-19 pandemic in 2019 has caused a ripple effect in the existing global AMR problem by “single-handedly increasing the global usage of antibiotics,” the ScienceDirect article says.

“As COVID-19 rages on, the pandemic of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) continues in the shadows,” The Lancet says in a comment accompanying their study. “The toll taken by AMR on patients and their families is largely invisible but is reflected in prolonged bacterial infections that extend hospital stays and cause needless deaths.”

Health experts have warned that the heavy use—and often misuse—of antibiotics in COVID-19 treatment might result in increasing AMR, underscoring the need to also understand the complex connections between bacterial and viral infections.

The Centre for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy (CDDEP) warns that, if left unaddressed, AMR “could recreate a pre-antibiotic era in which invasive surgeries are impossible,” and simple bacterial infections would cause people to die.

See also: Scientists call for new market approach to developing antibiotics

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