The Hordes at the Gates


While we have powerful antibiotics to fight bacterial infections, these pathogens remain the second leading cause of death in the world today.

Researchers examined 300 million death records to determine to what extent bacteria were responsible. In 2019 they found just five bacteria caused over half of the world's deaths. That's because they cause sepsis, a life-threatening infection of the blood.

But there are others and many you've heard of: E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae, are examples.

Staphylococcus aureus commonly called Staph, was the number one killer in 135 countries. The diarrheal pathogen, E. coli caused almost one million deaths.

Bacterial pathogens cause three major syndromes. Abdominal, bloodstream, and lower respiratory infections account for three quarters of the nearly 8 million global deaths in 2019.

In children under five, the deadliest bacterial infection was sepsis which killed 3 million. Respiratory infections killed over a million.

And not surprisingly, there is a large disparity between resource rich and poor nations. For example, in sub-Saharan Africa, bacteria killed 230 out of every 100,000 people compared with modern western countries which had less than 25% of those deaths.

How can we slow these numbers? With good public health practices and hygiene and by keeping bacteria out of our food supply. The overuse of antibiotics also contributes to this toll.

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More Information

MICROBE: Measuring Infectious Causes and Resistance Outcomes for Burden Estimation
Globally, between 1.27 million and 4.95 million people died because of bacterial antimicrobial resistance, more than HIV/AIDS or malaria...

The Lancet: One in eight deaths in 2019 linked to bacterial infections, the second leading cause of death globally
Common bacterial infections were the second-leading cause of death in 2019, and were linked to one in eight deaths globally, according to an analysis published in The Lancet. There were 7.7 million deaths in 2019 associated with 33 common bacterial infections, with five bacteria alone connected to more than half of all deaths. The deadliest bacterial pathogens and types of infection varied by location and age...