Study: Bacterial infections second leading cause of death worldwide

Pathogen responsible for 7.7 million deaths in 2019

Bacterial infections are the second leading  cause of death  worldwide, according to a new study. In 2019, before the outbreak of the corona pandemic, they were responsible for one in eight deaths, according to the study published in the journal The Lancet on Tuesday. Overall, the pathogens have been linked to 7.7 million deaths – 13.6 percent of the global total.

Just five bacteria were responsible for half of the deaths: Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Klebsiella pneumoniae and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Bacterial infections were the second leading cause of death after ischemic heart disease, which  includes heart attacks  . 

For the extensive study, the scientists examined 33 common bacterial pathogens and eleven types of infection in 204 countries and regions. They are the first global estimates of mortality associated with bacterial pathogens. The study was conducted as part of the Global Burden of Disease project, a research program funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation involving thousands of researchers worldwide. 

The study revealed significant differences between individual regions. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, 230 people per 100,000 people died from bacterial infections. In contrast, in higher-income countries such as Western Europe and North America, the figure was only 52 deaths per 100,000 people.

“These new data demonstrate for the first time the full magnitude of the global public health challenge posed by bacterial infections,” said Christopher Murray, co-author of the study and director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) in the US. It is of the utmost importance to “put the research results on the radar of global health initiatives” so that the deadly pathogens can be examined more closely.

To reduce bacterial deaths, the scientists called for increased investment in new vaccines, among other things. They also spoke out against the “unjustified use of antibiotics” to prevent antibiotic resistance. 

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