Bacterial infections are the second leading cause of death worldwide

Bacterial infections are the second leading cause of death worldwide, after heart disease, shows a very large study published Tuesday in the Lancet. This study selected about thirty bacteria – the most commonly implicated in infections – and assessed how many deaths were associated with them.

These measurements are carried out within the framework of the “Global Burden of Disease”. This vast research program, funded by the Bill Gates Foundation, is of an unparalleled scale, involving several thousand researchers in most countries of the world.

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Some 7.7 million deaths per year

In the end, “deaths associated with these bacteria constitute the second leading cause of death worldwide” after coronary heart disease, which notably includes heart attacks, conclude the authors.

With 7.7 million deaths linked to a bacterial infection, one in eight deaths can be attributed to them, even if these figures date back to 2019, before the Covid pandemic.

Of the thirty or so bacteria selected, five alone account for more than half of the deaths: staphylococcus aureus, E. coli, pneumococcus, Klebsellia pneumoniae and bacillus pyocyanin.

Staphylococcus aureus is “the leading bacterial cause of death in 135 countries,” the study said. In the youngest – under five years old – however, it is pneumococcal infections that prove to be the most deadly.

For the researchers, these results illustrate how bacterial infections are an “urgent priority” in public health. They call for work on the prevention of infections, better use of antibiotics – in particular to avoid phenomena of resistance – and more effective use of vaccination.

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