Bacterial infections the “second leading cause of death worldwide”

Bacterial infections the “second leading cause of death worldwide”


Bacterial infections are the second leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for one in eight deaths in 2019, the first global estimate of their mortality revealed on Tuesday.

The massive new study, published in the Lancet-Journal, looked at deaths from 33 common bacterial pathogens and 11 types of infection in 204 countries and territories.

The pathogens were linked to 7.7 million deaths in 2019, the year before the Covid-19 pandemic began – 13.6 percent of the global total.

That made it the second leading cause of death after ischemic heart disease, which includes heart attacks, the study said.

Just five of the 33 bacteria were responsible for half of those deaths: Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Klebsiella pneumoniae, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

S. aureus is a bacterium commonly found in human skin and nostrils but is behind a number of diseases, while E. coli is a common cause of food poisoning.

The study was conducted as part of Global Burden of Disease, an extensive research program funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that involves thousands of researchers around the world.

“These new data demonstrate for the first time the full extent of the global public health challenge posed by bacterial infections,” said study co-author Christopher Murray, director of the US-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

“It is of paramount importance to put these findings on the radar of global health initiatives so that these deadly pathogens can be studied more deeply and appropriate investments made to reduce the number of deaths and infections.”

Research points to strong differences between poor and affluent regions.

In sub-Saharan Africa, there were 230 deaths per 100,000 people from the bacterial infections.

That number fell to 52 per 100,000 in what the study dubbed the “high-income superregion,” which included countries in Western Europe, North America and Australasia.

The authors called for more funding, including for new vaccines, to reduce the number of deaths and also warned against “unjustified use of antibiotics”.

Washing hands is one of the recommended measures to prevent infection.

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