Meet the 6 Pathogens directly attributable to 73% of 1.27 million deaths

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) — the ability of a microorganism (bacteria, virus, fungi, parasite) to resist the effects of a drug — is a serious, complex and costly public health problem.” — FDA

Antimicrobial resistance could kill 10 million people per year by 2050.

That’s why now more than ever, the Antimicrobial Resistance Fighter Coalition is committed to raising awareness about AMR and providing resources to help broaden the knowledge about this Silent Pandemic.

Most recently, The Lancet Medical Journal published a comprehensive peer-reviewed study showing that 1.27 million deaths in 2019 were directly attributable to antimicrobial resistance, and of those deaths, 73% were caused by just six pathogens:

  1. Escherichia coli,
  2. Staphylococcus aureus,
  3. Klebsiella pneumoniae,
  4. Streptococcus pneumoniae,
  5. Acinetobacter baumannii, and
  6. Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

Let’s take a closer look at these six leading causes of AMR-related deaths so we can better protect our health and our communities.

Escherichia coli (E. coli)

E. coli is a bacterium that is known to cause a variety of health problems, ranging from diarrhea and urinary tract infections to more severe conditions such as meningitis and sepsis.

The bacterium is commonly present in food or water that has been contaminated by human or animal waste. It can also be contracted through contact with an infected individual carrying the bacteria on their skin or in their intestinal tract.

Prevention of E. coli infection primarily involves maintaining a high standard of hygiene. This includes thorough hand washing after restroom use and before food preparation. Ensuring that food is fully cooked prior to consumption can also significantly reduce the risk of bacterial contamination.

Additionally, the consumption of untreated water from natural sources such as lakes and rivers should be avoided, as these may harbor E. coli bacteria, posing a risk of infection if consumed.

Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)

Staphylococcus aureus, often referred to as staph,” is a typical bacterium that can be found on human skin and may cause infections in various parts of the body.

Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a particular strain of staph bacterium that has developed resistance to certain antibiotics, making infections caused by MRSA more challenging to treat. It’s important to note that while MRSA receives considerable attention due to its resistance, all staph infections, even those that are not antibiotic-resistant, can pose significant health risks if not appropriately managed.

To help lower the risk of an MRSA infection, certain preventative measures can be taken. Regular and thorough hand and body hygiene is paramount, and any wounds, cuts, or abrasions should be cleaned immediately. It’s also advisable to avoid sharing personal items such as towels or razors that can facilitate the spread of bacteria. Early medical attention for suspected infections is crucial for prompt and effective treatment. Following these guidelines can contribute significantly to maintaining your health and safety.

Klebsiella pneumoniae (Klebsiella)

Klebsiella pneumoniae, commonly known as Klebsiella, is a type of bacteria frequently found among sick patients in healthcare settings. It can cause infections in humans when it enters the body via various routes, including the nose, eyes, mouth, lungs, urinary tract, or bloodstream.

Klebsiella poses a significant risk, particularly for individuals with compromised immune systems, such as older adults or those with conditions like HIV/AIDS.

To prevent infection by Klebsiella, it is recommended to frequently wash your hands with soap and water, particularly after exposure to crowded environments where the risk of contamination may be higher.

Furthermore, minimizing contact with individuals who are ill can also help reduce the risk of Klebsiella infection. 

Streptococcus pneumoniae (S. pneumoniae)

Streptococcus pneumoniae, also known as S. pneumoniae, is a bacterium capable of causing numerous severe health conditions, including pneumonia, meningitis, and bloodstream infections. Notably, it is the primary cause of infection-related mortality in children under two years old and also contributes to a considerable number of adult deaths.

The CDC recommends pneumococcal vaccines for people at increased risk:

  • Adults who have never received a pneumococcal conjugate vaccine should receive PCV15 or PCV20 if they are 65 years and older or are 19 through 64 years old and have certain medical conditions or other risk factors.

Acinetobacter baumannii

Acinetobacter baumannii, often referred to as Iraqibacter” due to its association with wound infections among soldiers during the Iraq War, is a bacterial pathogen of global concern. 

According to the CDC, this bacterium is known to cause severe illnesses, including pneumonia and bloodstream infections, particularly in healthcare settings. Its high level of resistance to multiple antibiotics has led the World Health Organization to list it as a critical priority for the research and development of new antibiotics.

To reduce your risk of infection from A. baumannii, it is crucial to practice good hygiene by regularly washing your hands with soap and water — particularly after being in contact with surfaces or objects that could potentially be contaminated. Additionally, try to avoid close contact with individuals who are sick to avoid exposure to infectious diseases.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa

Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a type of bacteria that can cause serious illnesses, such as pneumonia, meningitis, and bloodstream infections. It’s especially dangerous for people with weakened immune systems, such as those who are ill or recovering from surgery.

The bacteria are commonly found in hospitals and other healthcare facilities and can be spread through contaminated surfaces and equipment or contact with infected individuals.

To help reduce the risk of infection from P. aeruginosa or any of these other pathogens, prioritizing personal hygiene is key. To reiterate, this includes washing your hands often with soap and water, disinfecting surfaces and objects that may be contaminated, and avoiding contact with sick individuals. 

It’s important to work with your healthcare provider to use antibiotics appropriately and to follow good infection prevention practices to help reduce the risk of antimicrobial resistance. By taking these steps, we can all help prevent the spread of harmful bacteria, keeping ourselves and our communities healthy and safe.

AMR is no longer a distant threat; it’s at our doorstep, and these six pathogens are leading the charge. If we’re to stand a chance, we need to arm ourselves with knowledge and take preventative measures like regular hand washing and using antibiotics judiciously.

Let’s do our bit to curb this health crisis. Check your AMR knowledge by taking this quiz: https://​antimi​cro​bial​re​sis​tance​fight​ers​.org/​learn

Together, we can stall the march of these deadly pathogens and keep our world safe.

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