The first global estimates of mortality involving 33 bacterial pathogens and 11 types of infection suggest they were associated with 7.7 million deaths in 2019.
Deaths associated with the 33 pathogens accounted for 13.6% of all global deaths, with five pathogens – S aureus, E coli, S pneumoniae, K. pneumoniae, and P. aeruginosa – accounting for more than half of all bacterial-related deaths, the Lancet said.
The mortality rate associated with bacterial infections was highest in Sub-Saharan Africa and lowest in high-income regions, including Western Europe and North America.
Second only to ischaemic heart disease as the leading cause of death in 2019, the study highlights reducing bacterial infections as a global public health priority.
“Building stronger health systems with greater diagnostic laboratory capacity, implementing control measures, and optimising antibiotic use is crucial to lessen the burden of disease caused by common bacterial infections,” it further said. “These new data for the first time reveal the full extent of the global public health challenge posed by bacterial infections,” said Christopher Murray, study co-author and director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine.
“It is of utmost importance to put these results on the radar of global health initiatives so that a deeper dive into these deadly pathogens can be conducted and proper investments are made to slash the number of deaths and infections.”
According to the study more deaths were linked to two of the deadliest pathogens – S aureus and E coli – than HIV/AIDS (864,000 deaths) in 2019, yet analysis shows HIV research was awarded $42 billion while E coli research was awarded $800 million, Lancet noticed, pointing to the funding gaps. Of the estimated 13.7 million infection-related deaths that occurred in 2019, 7.7 million were associated with the 33 bacterial pathogens studied. Deaths associated with these bacteria accounted for 13.6% of all global deaths, and more than half of all sepsis-related deaths, in 2019. More than 75% of the 7.7 million bacterial deaths occurred because of three syndromes: lower respiratory infections (LRI), bloodstream infections (BSI), and peritoneal and intra-abdominal infections, it said.
Five pathogens – S aureus, E coli, S pneumoniae, K pneumoniae, and P aeruginosa – were responsible for 54.2% of deaths among the bacteria studied. The pathogen associated with most deaths globally was S aureus, with 1.1 million deaths. Four other pathogens were each associated with more than 500,000 deaths: E. coli (950 000 deaths), S pneumoniae (829,000), K pneumonia (790,000), and Pseudomonas aeruginosa (559,000). A similar number of female and male deaths were associated with leading bacterial pathogens.
Age-standardised mortality rates varied by location, as did the deadliest pathogens. Sub-Saharan Africa recorded the highest mortality rate, with 230 deaths per 100,000 population. The high-income super-region – which includes countries in Western Europe, North America and Australasia – recorded the lowest mortality rate, with 52 deaths per 100,000 population. S. aureus was the leading bacterial cause of death in 135 countries, followed by E. coli (37 countries), S pneumoniae (24 countries), and K pneumoniae and Acinetobacter baumannii (4 countries each).