Surging deaths – A new global research has established that bacterial infections that could not be cured by antibiotics because of resistance to drugs killed more people than HIV/Aids and malaria did in 2019.
The research was carried out in 204 countries, including Kenya. Principal researchers were from the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI)—Wellcome Trust Research Programme and the Centre for Global Health Research.
The findings show that more than 1.2 million deaths in 2019 were directly linked to treatable antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections and an overall 4.95 million people had related deaths.
This was compared with 860,000 HIV/Aids deaths and 640,000 malaria deaths in the same year.
“If all drug-resistant infections were replaced by no infection, 4.95 million deaths could have been prevented in 2019, whereas if all drug-resistant infections were replaced by drug-susceptible infections, 1.27 million deaths could have been prevented,” said the researchers.
This phenomenon is called antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and is touted by scientists as a ‘silent pandemic.’
Dr Evelyn Wesangula, who is in charge of the AMR programme at the Health ministry in Kenya, explains that; AMR occurs when microorganisms are no longer able to be suppressed or killed by antimicrobial agents.
“What this means is that simple infections cannot be treated by the commonly available antimicrobial agents; resulting in increased length of stay in hospitals as some of the microorganisms that cause infections are resistant to antibiotics.”
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She added that, patients develop multidrug resistance to antibiotics and require antibiotics of a higher class to treat that infection; which is most likely to be very expensive, thus increasing the cost of care and if nothing happens, patients die.
Children, and people living in Sub-Saharan Africa were the hardest hit.
In every five children, one died from antimicrobial resistant complications.
“Our analysis showed that AMR all-age death rates were highest in some low- and middle-income countries, making AMR not only a major health problem globally but a particularly serious problem for some of the poorest countries in the world,” revealed the study.
Tim Jinks, head of Intervention, Infectious Disease at Wellcome Trust who commissioned the research; believes it is time African leadership stepped forward and give African solutions to AMR.
“Countries are not prioritising the implementation of their national action plans and now the GRAM report should serve as a call to action. By last year, 39 countries had developed their plans, but few have implemented them,” Mr Jinks said.