Expert comment - 1.2m people died in 2019 for antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is confirmed as a global health threat for 204 countries and territories, with worst impacts in low- and middle-income countries.
Swabbing in the antimicrobial resistance lab. Credit: Jon Spaull

The first comprehensive analysis of the global impact of AMR, published in The Lancet, estimates it caused 1.27 million deaths in 2019, and antimicrobial-resistant infections played a role in 4.95 million deaths. Estimates for 204 countries and territories confirm AMR as a global health threat, with worst impacts in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), though higher income countries also face alarmingly high levels of AMR. Dr Gwen Knight and Professor Kat Holt, Co-Directors of the Antimicrobial Resistance Centre at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, reacted to the news.

Dr Knight and Professor Holt said: “These new estimates are a timely reminder that COVID-19 is not the only major public health challenge we are facing - AMR is the silent pandemic. This study shows AMR is contributing substantially to deaths across a range of different types of infections - not just those we typically think of as serious, like pneumonia and sepsis, but also the kind of things that many of us have come to regard as simple treatable illnesses like a urinary tract infection or an infected wound. These infections can become much more serious, and even lethal, if the antibiotics we rely on are ineffective against them. However, when interpreting these results we need to be aware of the large levels of uncertainty due to the lack of data in certain settings - models can only take us so far. 

“Moving forward, to inform policies and develop effective interventions, we need to support high quality science to answer the unanswered questions, and  better understand the full impact and drivers of AMR.”

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