April 11, 2021

Resistance to antibiotics causes 33,000 deaths per year in Europe | Society

Resistance to antibiotics causes 33,000 deaths per year in Europe | Society

More than 33,000 Europeans die every year from infections caused by bacteria that have developed resistance to antibiotics. This impact on the health of the population is already similar to that added by the three main infectious diseases: influenza, AIDS and tuberculosis. This is one of the main conclusions of an extensive investigation carried out by the European Center for the Prevention and Control of Diseases (ECDC, in its acronym in English).


Year 2015

Source: ECDC / The Lancet.

The study, the largest carried out to date by this institution, highlights that in 39% of cases the bacteria involved are already immune to the so-called "last line" antibiotics such as colistins and the carbapenems. This, according to the ECDC, draws a scenario "very worrying because these antibiotics are the latest treatments available." "When [estos fármacos] are no longer effective, it is extremely difficult, and in many cases impossible, to treat these infections", Defends the organism. The study argues that the causes of these resistances are due to the misuse of antibiotics and insufficient measures to control and prevent infections.

The research is based on data collected throughout 2015 from a large network of hospitals in the European Union, as well as Norway and Iceland. On this information, using mathematical estimates, the authors calculate that there were 670,000 infections that year caused by multiresistant bacteria, "as a result of which" 33,110 patients died. These estimates take into account projections on the total population of the countries studied and the mortality attributed to each of the bacteria, among many other variables.

The most remarkable novelty of the work is that it calculates for the first time in this type of studies the number of years lost due to illness, disability or premature death (DALYs, in its acronym in English). This measure reveals great differences between the countries investigated. If the European average is 170 years for every 100,000 inhabitants, Italy and Greece are at the top comfortably exceeding the 400 years lost, while Norway, Holland, Estonia and Iceland are below 40.

"The finding of 170 DALYs per 100,000 inhabitants is similar to the sum of the impact on the population of the three major infectious diseases, such as influenza, tuberculosis and AIDS," states the study.

The authors of the research highlight that almost two out of three infections, 63.5% of the total, were "acquired in the health system", mainly hospitals, which offers a "wide margin for improvement" through the application of prevention and control in health centers ".

The main bacteria involved are old known to health professionals, such as the Acinetobacter spp, the Enterococcus faecalis and faecium, the Klebsiella pneumoniae, the Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and the Streptococcus pneumoniae These are very common pathogens, initially sensitive to all antibiotics, but which in recent decades have developed immunity to several types of antibiotics.

The work has been carried out by ECDC experts in collaboration with dozens of European experts and has been published in the reference journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases. The authors admit limitations in their work due to the complexity of the mathematical estimates made, but defend among their strengths "the high quality of the data sources", in reference to the collection carried out by the European Network for Resistance Surveillance. Antibiotics (EARS-Net, in its acronym in English). The experts also defend "the systematic review of the latest published studies to obtain the best estimates of the mortality attributable to multiresistant bacteria and their complications".

The objective of the work is, according to the ECDC, to offer European authorities the latest information available to deal with a problem that "requires close coordination between all the countries studied and at a global level". In view of the notable differences observed among the countries, however, the ECDC urges "reducing them by means of adequate prevention and control measures", as well as "precise management of antibiotics". "All this," he concludes, "must be a priority objective for all countries."

The Doctor: "Patients ask me for it"

The concern for the misuse of antibiotics is global. If the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control warns of the problem in Europe, a paper presented at the recent congress of the Spanish Society of Primary Care Physicians (Semergen) held in Palma warns of the margin for improvement in health centers .

The study, which collects the most frequent answers in an anonymous survey of 120 doctors from the Terrassa area (Barcelona), points out that the eighth most repeated is that "if a patient thinks he needs an antibiotic, he will get it without a prescription". Some consider that "prescribing an antibiotic will not influence the appearance of resistance". And, although minority, the doctors admit: "Sometimes I prescribe antibiotics because patients demand it from me"; also "for lack of time for explanations"; and even to "keep trusting me".

The work concludes that "although doctors are aware of the problem, there is room for improvement that justifies a Program for the Optimization of the Use of Antibiotics".


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