The Lancet recently published an estimate of the number of deaths caused by antimicrobial resistance (AMR), which was based on an analysis of 204 countries by a team of international researchers, led by the University of Washington.
The article, ‘Global burden of bacterial antimicrobial resistance in 2019: a systematic analysis’, is believed to be the largest study of the issue to date and reveals that up to five million people died in 2019 from illnesses in which AMR played a role - on top of the 1.2 million deaths it caused directly.
According to BBC News, in the same year, Aids (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) is thought to have caused 860,000 deaths and malaria 640,000.
The broadcaster also reported, “The overuse of antibiotics in recent years for trivial infections means they are becoming less effective against serious infections.
“Using patient records from hospitals, studies and other data sources, the researchers say young children are at most risk, with about one in five deaths linked to AMR being among the under-fives.”
In the UK, data has also revealed that placeholder prescriptions in dentistry, used throughout the pandemic, may be contributing to the issue; antibiotic prescribing in the NHS dental settings had been steadily decreasing from 2016 to 2019 (0.16 and 0.13 items per 1,000 inhabitants per day respectively, -18.4 per cent). This decline was interrupted in 2020 with an increase of 17.6 per cent reported (from 0.13 to 0.15 items per 1,000 inhabitants per day). This increase is despite the number of patients being reduced due to covid.
Throughout the first lockdown, staff were advised to adopt an ‘AAA’ model – antibiotics, analgesics or advice.
In response, dentist leaders previously stressed the government must do more to increase access sustainably and ensure patients – particularly urgent cases – have the time for operative interventions, to ensure they are not offered antibiotics as a placeholder. The current target-based NHS contract in operation in England has long represented a key barrier to progress.