Welcome back! Last week, we talked about gray hair. If you missed that blog and would like to catch up, click HERE.
This week, we are going to talk about bacteria. Did you know that common bacterial infection was the second-leading cause of death worldwide in 2019?
A study was conducted
In a study published by the Lancet and printed on November 21, 2022, it was reported that bacterial infections were the second-leading cause of death in 2019, and were linked to one in eight deaths globally.
The massive new study, published in the Lancet journal, looked at deaths from 33 common bacterial pathogens and 11 types of infection across 204 countries and territories.
The pathogens were associated with 7.7 million deaths — 13.6 percent of the global total — in 2019, the year before the Covid-19 pandemic took off.
Five specific pathogens are responsible
Five of those pathogens – S. aureus, E. coli, S. pneumoniae, K. pneumoniae, and P. aeruginosa – account for more than half of all bacteria-related deaths.
That made them the second-leading cause of death after ischaemic heart disease, which includes heart attacks, the study said.
S. aureus is a bacterium common in human skin and nostrils but behind a range of illnesses, while E. coli commonly causes food poisoning.
Since bacterial infections were second only to ischemic heart disease as the leading cause of death in 2019, the analysis highlights reducing them as a global public health priority.
Co-Author Speaks Out
“These new data for the first time reveal the full extent of the global public health challenge posed by bacterial infections,” said Dr. 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.”
The lack of data created a gap in funding
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 dollars, while E. coli research was awarded $800 million. The authors say such funding gaps might have arisen because there was, until now, a lack of data on the global burden of these infections.
So let’s break it down by pathogen
The pathogen associated with the 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. pneumoniae (790,000), and Pseudomonas aeruginosa (559,000).
Three syndromes accounted for 75% of deaths
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 (IAA).
Who funded this study?
The study was conducted under the framework of the Global Burden of Disease, a vast research program funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation involving thousands of researchers across the world.
What can we do to improve our numbers?
The study determined that the different ways to reduce infection rates are
- Building stronger health systems with greater diagnostic laboratory capacity. “The National Library of Health (NIH) states, “Through the development of quality laboratories in settings burdened by poverty and weak health systems, Partners In Health has demonstrated the critical contributions of clinical laboratories to the care of patients with HIV, tuberculosis, and cancer, among other conditions. The lessons learned through the organization’s experience include the importance of well-trained and well-supported staff; reliable access to supplies, reagents, and diagnostic equipment; adequate facilities to provide diagnostic services; the integration of laboratories into networks of care; and accompaniment of the public health sector.
2. Implementing control measures. According to the NIH, “Preventive measures have a dramatic impact on morbidity and mortality. Such measures include water treatment, immunization of animals and humans, personal hygiene measures, and safer sex practices. Bacterial resistance to antibiotics is a growing concern mandating their prudent use.”
3. Optimizing antibiotic use. In short, don’t over-prescribe antibiotics. The NIH weighs in, “One important driver of antimicrobial resistance is the use and abuse of antibiotics in human medicine. Inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics is still very frequent: up to 50% of all antimicrobials prescribed in humans might be unnecessary and several studies show that at least 50% of antibiotic treatments are inadequate, depending on the setting.” Once we become resistant to antibiotics, we become unable to fight bacteria, and that leads to superbugs like MRSA.
At the end of the day…
How we choose to move forward will determine our fate. We must use great caution and act to preserve our ability to fight another day. Obviously more studies will be needed to find a solution that works globally, but with the right people as leaders, there is a way out of this.
Just remember this: “Even though the germ theory had been established by the late 1800s, physicians did not make a practice of washing their hands between coming into contact with infected patients or materials. Surgical instruments, bedding, clothing, etc. that had come into physical contact with ill patients were not sterilized. These unhygienic practices lead to the massive spread of infections. 50% of the patients who had undergone surgical procedures died due to hospital-acquired infections.”
We’ve come a long way, baby…we’ll get there eventually.
To access The University of Oxford’s interactive visualization tool for the United States, click HERE.
As always, this blog is not a replacement for sound medical advice. I am not a doctor. Please make an appointment to see your healthcare provider and put a good plan in place that works for you and the needs of your body.
That’s all I have for you this week, dear reader. I’ll see you back here next Wednesday to share another cup of coffee. Until then, be good to yourself and each other.
Mind, Body, Spirit…Osteopathic Doctors treat the whole person, not just the ailment. Is your PCP a DO? Would you like to learn more about Osteopathic Physicians? Click HERE!