With 12.7 Deaths, Antimicrobial Resistance Claimed More Lives Than AIDS, Malaria: Study

More deaths were caused due to antimicrobial resistance in 2019 than HIV/AIDS and malaria

Shubhangi Shah
Written by: Shubhangi ShahPublished at: Jan 24, 2022Updated at: Jan 24, 2022
With 12.7 Deaths, Antimicrobial Resistance Claimed More Lives Than AIDS, Malaria: Study

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is the phenomenon in which microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc, develop resistance against medicines designed to kill them. Hence, infections caused by these can no longer be treated with those meds. Antimicrobial resistance might look benign on the surface when compared to distressing illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, cancers, or even malaria. However, it’s more lethal than we think. As per a research published in The Lancet journal, AMR claimed more lives than HIV/AIDS and malaria in 2019. But, before delving into the study, let us understand what antimicrobial resistance is.

What Is Antimicrobial Resistance?

First and foremost, antimicrobials include drugs such as antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals, and antiparasitics, designed to work against specific bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. When microbes change over time to render antimicrobe drugs ineffective against them, it is called antimicrobial resistance, as per the World Health Organisation (WHO). As a result, infections caused by these become difficult or even impossible to treat.

About The Study

Antimicrobial resistance claimed lakhs of lives in 2019

(Photo Credit: Unsplash)

For this “most comprehensive estimate of AMR burden to date”:

  • The Lancet study covered 204 countries.
  • The researchers looked at the records of 47.1 crore patients.
  • They looked at deaths caused by and associated with antimicrobial resistance in 2019.

Study Findings

Here’s what the study found out:

  • AMR claimed an estimated 12.7 lakh lives across 204 countries in 2019.
  • Not just that, an estimated 49.5 lakh deaths were associated with this phenomenon.
  • In comparison, HIV/AIDS caused 8.6 lakh and malaria 6.4 lakh deaths in the same year.
  • Economically, low and middle-income countries were worst affected by AMR. However, rich countries too weren’t untouched by it.
  • Of all the AMR deaths, 70% were caused due to antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics are considered the first line of defense against infection.
  • Out of 23 types of bacteria studied, just six of them were linked to over 35 lakh deaths.

The study findings are a cause of concern and highlight the need for a global initiative to combat AMR.

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How Do Bacteria Become Resistant To Antibiotics?

Antimicrobial resistance is a cause for global concern

The study highlighted that antimicrobial resistance, especially that developed by bacteria claimed lakhs of lives in 2019. There are multiple ways bacteria develop AMR:

  • Naturally: First and foremost, bacteria can naturally become resistant to certain antimicrobial drugs.
  • Underuse: The way a patient uses these drugs has an impact too. One of the ways this happens is when you don’t complete your medicine course. As some bacteria react slowly to antibiotics, when you stop taking your meds midway, they can avoid the effect of these drugs, as per a leading media outlet. Hence, they multiply and pass on their resistance.
  • Overuse: Just like underuse, overusing antibiotics can cause bacteria to develop resistance, thus leading to antimicrobial resistance. Hence, do not consume these drugs without prescription, use as much as prescribed and take these for the illness they are prescribed for. 
  • Person-To-Person: Surprisingly, antimicrobial resistance can spread from person to person too. This happens for example when a person with resistant bacteria in his/her nose coughs. In this way, it can spread to others too.

Not just that, environmental factors can also contribute to AMR, such as unclean water, pollution, etc.

What Next?

Antimicrobial resistance renders the drugs useless against infections. So how to manage it? First and foremost, judicious and careful use of these drugs is the key. Combination therapy could be another way to tackle AMR, as per a leading media outlet. In combination therapy, a combination of drugs, rather than just one, is used to treat an infection. It is aimed at preventing the microbes from developing resistance to a drug. Lastly, AMR is a global phenomenon, affective multiple countries at the same time. Hence, a collective effort will be needed to rein in AMR.

Photo Credit: Unsplash

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