The new pandemic of antibiotic-resistant superbugs
“1.2 million deaths a year, more than malaria, lung, trachea and bronchial cancers and more than AIDS are caused worldwide by superbatteri resistant to antibiotics. Not to mention that this invisible microbe has infected five million people died in hospitals for other causes ”are some of the worrying data of a study published by the prestigious journal Lancet. A real pandemic that risks becoming, according to the leaders of the study, three times worse than the Covid epidemic. In fact, from the work, elaborated in 204 countries, it emerged that in less than 30 years i superbugs will kill 10 million people.
Effective treatments are lacking for the new superbug pandemic
In 2019, 1,270,000 people died due to drug-resistant pathogens but the most worrying aspect is the absolute lack of treatment for these deadly infections. Aside from an existing vaccine for just one of these bacteria, doctors are often defenseless, as the bacteria became immune to all antibiotics, such as penicillin. What is the cause of this global threat? According to the study, the cause is the indiscriminate use of antibiotics, in both human health and livestock. “We must act now against this enormous threat – warned Chris Murray researcher at the University of Washington (USA) and co-author of the report – because the world is now much closer to the expected death numbers in 30 years than previously thought” .
Superbug infections are the third leading cause of death globally
These infections with and with antibiotic-resistant bacteria were the third leading cause of death globally in 2019, after coronary heart disease and stroke. the respiratory infections, like pneumonia, born from these bacteria are the ones that cause the most mortality: 400,000 deaths a year. Following the blood infections causing 370,000 victims and the abdominal infections, guilty of over 210,000 deaths. Children are the hardest hit by this pandemic. According to the study, 20% of the deceased were under the age of five. Babies are more vulnerable to these infections as their immune systems are not yet trained and also because they are in contact with multiple pathogens as they spend a lot of time on the floor and with their hands in their mouths.In fact, UNICEF estimates that up to 40% of all deaths in these ages are due to resistant infections.
Six superbugs cause the greatest deaths in the new pandemic
Of all the microbes tested, only six of them: E. coli, S. aureus, K. pneumoniae, S. pneumoniae, A. baumannii e P. aeruginosa they are responsible for most of the deaths (920,000). Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia they are the two regions with the highest incidence, with over 20 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. In developed countries, infections of this type kill an average of 13 people per 100,000. Spain shows average levels of resistance to antibiotics, higher than those in the northern EU countries and lower than those recorded in some in the south, like Italy, Portugal or Greece. Mortality from these microbes could be much lower if there was access to the right drugs. 70% of deaths are due to bacteria that are immune only to first-line antibiotics, such as fluoroquinolones, but not to the more expensive ones used in case of resistance.
Difficult to access antibiotics in developing countries
In developing countries there is no widespread access to antibiotics of last resort. They are expensive drugs and are only given intravenously and in hospitals. This causes many people to die from treatable infections, for example, in Europe. This is not only a problem for poor countries, but also for rich ones. “Due to the lack of access, there is a growing black market for antibiotics that don’t meet quality standards and don’t completely cure infections. “Because they are not entirely effective, they allow bacteria to develop new resistance genes and sooner or later these variants end up reaching the world,” some experts note. According to the researchers, the pandemic “is accelerating.”Covid has made the situation worse and will make it even worse. The pandemic has increased the number of hospital admissions which, combined with the improper use of antibiotics in hospitals, especially in Latin America and Africa, end up generating more deaths from infections and more resistant variants “.
Correct use of antibiotics is important
The study authors ask urgent measures to promote the proper use of antibiotics, improve asepsis in hospitals to prevent infections e fund research of new antibiotics. The latter goal is much more complex than it seems, since it doesn’t is of interest to the pharmaceutical industry, “Companies don’t want to make the large outlay needed to develop a new drug so that shortly after its release on the market, new resistances appear and stop being effective.” Furthermore, as large multinationals such as Novartis have abandoned their projects in this field, we need to find new ways to finance the development of antibiotics just as has been done with vaccines against Covid. “Finally, an approach is important “One Health”, with the involvement of all the players in the field: doctors, veterinarians, economists, health professionals, sociologists. Everyone must convey the same message: one third of all antibiotics are prescribed inappropriately. Prescribers must be educated and the population educated in their use.