Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is the leading cause of death worldwide, surpassing the annual number of deaths from AIDS or malaria, according to the most comprehensive antimicrobial resistance assessment ever published. A recent publication in the prestigious scientific journal Lancet reports that more than 1.2 million people worldwide have died from bacterial infections due to antibiotic resistance.
The estimate of global antimicrobial deaths is based on an analysis of 204 countries by a team of international researchers led by the University of Washington.
The data presented in this study are impressive: In 2019, the deaths of 4.95 million people were associated with drug-resistant bacterial infections while 1.27 million deaths were caused directly by antimicrobial resistance.
The poorest countries are most affected by high rates of infection and reduced access to antibiotics, but antimicrobial resistance threatens the health of us all.
The doctors of the Therapeutic Clinic of the Medical School of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Eleni Koromboki and Thanos Dimopoulos (Rector of EKPA) report that the urgent development of new drugs and the judicious use of available antibiotics are necessary to protect against the growth of microbes.
The misuse of antibiotics in recent years for mild infections has led to reduced efficacy against serious infections. People are dying from common, previously treatable infections, because the bacteria that cause them have become – now – resistant to treatment.
The COVID-19 pandemic could even exacerbate the problem of antimicrobial resistance due to antibiotic abuse and prolonged hospital stays. This fact requires urgent escalation of actions to combat antimicrobial resistance, as noted by the two scientists.
Health officials in the United Kingdom have recently warned that antimicrobial resistance is a “hidden pandemic” that could follow Covid-19 if antibiotics are not used wisely.
Professor Chris Murray, of the Institute for Health Evaluation at the University of Washington, said the new data revealed the true scale of the problem worldwide and was a clear signal for immediate action if we were to address the major issue of antimicrobial resistance.
Other experts point out that better monitoring of endurance levels in different countries and regions is essential.
Dr. Ramanan Laxminarayan, of the Center for Health Economics and Policy in Washington, D.C., said global spending on antimicrobial resistance should be increased to levels spent on other diseases.
Expenditures should be directed primarily to the prevention of infections, ensuring that existing antibiotics are used appropriately and prudently, but also to the development of new antibiotics.
According to scientists, national leaders now have an obligation to put the issue of antimicrobial resistance at the top of their political agendas. Research efforts to address knowledge and innovation gaps and to update health policies and clinical practice need to be accelerated.
Above all, antimicrobial resistance to antibiotics must be considered a global issue, which requires a coherent plan with a unified approach to health policies.
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