What happens when the foot soldiers deployed to fight the pathogens gunning for our bodies, lose their weapons? This is called antimicrobial resistance (AR). And its a crisis so grave, experts are calling it the 'next big pandemic'.
A new study published in the medical journal, Lancet, now tells us just how many deaths around the world can be linked to AR – and the picture it paints isn't pretty.
How bad is the situation in India? Read on to find out.
The big picture: The study, conducted by, takes a comprehensive look at the deaths caused by bacterial pathogens across age groups in 204 countries to understand the real world implication of antimicrobial resistance.
This is the first study of it's scale to give comprehensive data on deaths associated with 33 bacterial pathogens, across 11 major infectious syndromes.
Why it matters: Many of these bacterial infections could earlier be treated quiet easily with antibiotics. But AR has rendered them pretty much untreatable, at least with the 1st and 2nd generation antibiotics.
What this means is that doctors are forced to resort to stronger, more toxic antibiotics to treat them – these are often hepatotoxic, and come with a slew of other side effects.
"It not only harms you because it has side effects, it also causes harm to society because it is further creating antimicrobial resistance."Dr Sumit Ray, Critical Care Specialist, Holy Family Hospital
By the numbers: Let’s take a closer look at what the study found. In 2019...
1.3 crore people died due to infections globally.
7.7 million of these deaths were linked to 33 bacterial pathogens.
54.9 percent of them were from just 5 bacteria – Staphylococcus aureus (Staph infection), Escherichia coli (E. Coli), Streptococcus pneumoniae (community acquired pneumonia), Klebsiella pneumoniae, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
1.1 million deaths were associated with S. aureus - the highest of all the studied pathogens.
Nearly 6.8 lakh deaths in India were caused by these 5 pathogens.
1.57 lakh of these deaths were caused by E Coli alone.
The bottomline: "It is a very worrying situation. It is difficult to reverse. We have to develop ways of countering it that is multifactorial, at multiple levels," says Dr Sumit Ray.
Go deeper: What to know more about the looming crisis of antimicrobial resistance? Here's how climate change is propelling this 'hidden pandemic'.