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Anti-biotic resistant superbugs killed 1.2 million people in 2019, claims study

Discovered in the 1920s, antibiotics have saved millions of lives by defeating bacterial diseases. But over the decades, bacteria have learned to fight back, building resistance to the same drugs that once reliably vanquished them - these are called superbugs.
Superbug is a strain of bacteria that has become resistant to antibiotic drugs. (Representative Photo/Shutterstock)
Published on Jan 20, 2022 09:03 AM IST
By | Written by Amit Chaturvedi, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Anti-biotic resistant infection killed 1.2 million people in 2019, according to a study published in The Lancet. Titled ‘The overlooked pandemic of antimicrobial resistance’, it highlights the growing threat of superbugs.

The study has been carried out by researchers from the University of Washington and University of Oxford. They said that anti-microbial resistance (AMR) killed as many people as HIV (680,000) and malaria (627,000) combined.

The researchers further said that these superbugs were a potential factor in five million global deaths in the year 2019.

In comparison, the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) killed 3.5 million people last year.

The figure of 1.2 million fatalities is much higher than the estimates released by the World Health Organization (WHO), which said that 700,000 people died from drug-resistant infection.

The study published in The Lancet further called for urgent action to stop the death toll from AMR going up further.

What are superbugs?

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These are pathogens which are resistant to multiple antimicrobial drugs, thus making it harder to treat. Patients infected with any of these bugs often have to be treated with last line drugs, which are both expensive and toxic. And many of them succumb.

A 2018 study, carried out in 10 Fortis Group hospitals in India, found that patients with multidrug resistant infections were almost thrice as likely to die as those with susceptible ones.

What the study says

According to the research published in The Lancet, the toll taken by AMR on patients and their families is largely invisible but is reflected in prolonged bacterial infections that extend hospital stays and cause needless deaths.

Moreover, AMR disproportionately affects poor individuals who have little access to second-line, more expensive antibiotics that could work when first-line drugs fail, it further said.

Discovered in the 1920s, antibiotics have saved tens of millions of lives by defeating bacterial diseases such as pneumonia, tuberculosis and meningitis.

But over the decades, bacteria have learned to fight back, building resistance to the same drugs that once reliably vanquished them.

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