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  • Ryan Wittler

Antimicrobial Resistance Is Among the World’s Leading Causes of Death

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The first comprehensive analysis of the global impact of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has estimated that resistance itself caused over 1.2 million deaths in 2019, placing it among the world’s leading causes of death.

Some background:

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), AMR “occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites change over time and no longer respond to medicines.” The WHO classifies it as “one of the top 10 global public health threats facing humanity.”

Until now, no study had examined the global impact of AMR, but the most recent estimates predicted 10 million annual deaths worldwide by 2050.

Some highlights:

According to the present study, AMR directly caused 1.27 million deaths in 2019 and was associated with 4.95 million others. For context, HIV/AIDS and malaria are estimated to have caused 860,000 and 640,000 deaths, respectively, in 2019.

Drug-resistance in lower respiratory infections (e.g., pneumonia) had the greatest impact on AMR burden in 2019, causing over 400,000 deaths and being associated with over 1.5 million more.

Bloodstream infections (which can lead to sepsis) was next, causing around 370,000 deaths and associated with almost 1.5 million. Followed by intra-abdominal infections (commonly caused by appendicitis), causing about 210,000 deaths and associated with around 800,000.

Where it was worst:

According to the study, AMR burden was greatest in 2019 in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, at 389,000 deaths and 225,000 deaths, respectively.

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