News and Opinions  –  2022

Antibiotic resistance claims more than 1,2 million lives a year, says new large study

Share the article

2022-01-20

Today the most comprehensive data to date on the global burden of antibiotic resistance has been published in the Lancet. An estimated 1.27 million deaths were a direct result of antibiotic resistant bacterial infections in 2019. This points to the fact that world leaders must urgently speed up actions on multiple levels to mitigate the increasing consequences of this crisis.

The bacteria antibiotics are intended to kill are becoming resistant. Antibiotics may no longer work. Photo: Shutterstock.

This is the first time that long-awaited global burden data are available presenting a full picture of the spread of antibiotic resistance and its overall health impact. Compelling evidence shows that antibiotic resistance is not a future threat – it is here now as a leading cause of global mortality with a magnitude at least as high as major infectious diseases such as HIV or malaria. 1 in 5 deaths from resistant bacteria occurs in children under 5. The burden of antibiotic resistance falls disproportionately on low- and middle-income countries.

Today, In the Lancet, the The multi-partner Global Research on Antimicrobial Resistance (GRAM) project published the first comprehensive report presenting the global health burden due to antibiotic resistance.

Based on 471 million individual records, 7585 study-location-years, 23 pathogens, and 88 pathogen–drug combinations in 204 countries and territories in 2019, the GRAM study provides compelling evidence that antibiotic resistance is not a future threat – it is already a leading cause of death globally, and it is our responsibility to act now.

1.27  millions deaths direct result of antibiotic resistance infections in 2019

Figure1: Attributable deaths to antibiotic resistance. Numbers are from GRAM study.

Main diseases where antibiotic resistances are causing deaths:

  • Lower respiratory tract infections (such as pneumonia)
  • Bloodstream infections
  • Intra abdominal infections
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Tuberculosis
  • Skin infections
  • Meningitis and other bacterial central nervous system infections
  • Typhoid fever and other invasive Salmonella infections
  • Diarrhea
  • Cardiac infections
  • Bone and joint infections

Lancet calling for Global fund to widen its mandate and include AMR

Lancet also published an editorial calling for the Global Fund to include antimicrobial resistance:

“The existing burden of AMR and its future threat should be an urgent stimulus to revise and widen The Global Fund’s mission. It is now time for the Fund to embrace AMR as one of its core responsibilities.”

Stronger prioritization for actions on antibiotic resistance

New data clearly show the current magnitude and geographical dispersion of the antibiotic resistance hazard. With the severity and urgency of the antibiotic resistance issue at the global scale, global leadership and investment made so far is lagging far behind. It should be recognized that there is no time to lose and no more excuses to ignore antibiotic resistance as an ongoing pandemic.

Urgent to fund and implement  National Action Plans on AMR

The current burden of antibiotic resistance must be critical input to inform global strategies, policy priority setting and investment decisions. The higher burden in low-resource contexts highlights the urgency of funding and implementing national action plans. As there are still significant data gaps especially in low- and middle-income countries, it is also critical to prioritize funding in building laboratory infrastructure and strengthening health system capacity.

Equitable access to effective antibiotics

Equitable access to effective antibiotics is a prerequisite for sustainable development. There is a need for an agreement on how to preserve this essential global resource. Now there is an opportunity to build on the momentum and include antibiotic resistance in deliberations in the context of negotiating a new global legal instrument for pandemic preparedness and response.