The Global Research on Antimicrobial Resistance (GRAM) report published in The Lancet revealed that AMR directly caused 1.27 million deaths in 2019 and was associated with 4.95 million deaths in 2019. This is higher than the number of deaths from HIV/AIDS and malaria worldwide in 2019.
“The study has highlighted the silent pandemic of drug-resistant infections that we are facing. It has shown that drug-resistant bacteria can infect anyone, anywhere,” said Dr Manica Balasegaram, Executive Director of GARDP. “The time to act is now. We have the opportunity to strengthen our collaboration, leadership and investment in measures to counter drug resistance.”
AMR occurs when bacteria changes over time and no longer responds to medicines.
People are dying from common, previously treatable infections because the bacteria that cause them have become resistant to treatment.
The report showed that 70% of deaths that resulted from AMR were caused by resistance to antibiotics often considered the first line of defence against severe infections.
The GRAM report found that most of the deaths were caused by six bacterial pathogens and that low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) were hardest hit by AMR, although there is rising resistance across the world. In 2019, one in five people who died due to AMR were children under five years old.
“The true burden of resistance could be greater than that estimated in this study,” said Dr Ramanan Laxminarayan, Board Chair of GARDP, in his commentary in The Lancet. “Modern medicine, including surgeries, chemotherapy, organ transplantations, and other invasive procedures require effective antibiotics. Untreatable infections reduce the value of these procedures and thereby lower their value to patients, but this additional burden is difficult to measure and is not addressed.”
As a not-for-profit organization accelerating the development and access of lifesaving treatments for drug-resistant infections, GARDP is committed to working with partners to intensify its fight against drug resistance.
Dr Laxminarayan states that although AMR deaths are higher than HIV deaths, the global spending on tackling AMR is probably much lower than the US$50 billion spent on HIV/AIDS each year. “This needs to change,” he said. “Spending needs to be directed to preventing infections in the first place, making sure existing antibiotics are used appropriately and judiciously, and to bringing new antibiotics to market. Health and political leaders at local, national, and international levels need to take seriously the importance of addressing AMR and the challenge of poor access to affordable, effective antibiotics.”