NEW DELHI: Five bacteria – E.coli, S.pneumoniae, K.pneumoniae, S.aureus and A.baumanii – have emerged as the deadliest pathogens in India. According to a report published in The Handinfections caused by the five bacteria together claimed more than 6.8 lakh lives in India in 2019.
While E Coli, which is associated with diarrhoea, urinary tract infections and pneumonia among others, has claimed up to 1.6 lakh lives in the country, S.pneumoniae, K.pneumoniae, S.aureus and A.baumannii they caused 1.4 lakh, 1.3 lakh, 1.2 lakh and 1.1 lakh deaths respectively.
The Lancet report is based on deaths attributable to bacterial infections among 33 species, including the five mentioned above. In total, the report shows that 13.7 people died from bacterial infections in India in 2019. The other common bacteria responsible for infection-related deaths included Salmonella Typhi, non-typhoid Salmonella and Pseudomonas aeruginosa among others.

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These bacteria have been associated with infection deaths reported from other countries as well. The Lancet report shows that around 1.3 crore of people have died from infections globally. Of these deaths, 77 lakh deaths were associated with the 33 bacterial pathogens included in the study, with five bacteria alone linked to more than half of all deaths. More than 75% of the 77 lakh bacterial deaths occurred due to three syndromes: lower respiratory tract infections (LRI), blood stream infections (BSI), and peritoneal and intra-abdominal infections (IAA), the study showed.
“These new data for the first time reveal the full extent of the global public health challenge posed by bacterial infections,” said Dr Christopher Murray, study co-author and director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington School of Medicine, said. He added that it is of the utmost importance to put these findings on the radar of global health initiatives so that we can conduct a deeper dive into these deadly pathogens and make the appropriate investments to drastically reduce the number of deaths and infections.
Pathogens associated with most deaths differed by age. At 940,000 deaths, S. aureus was associated with the highest number of deaths in adults over the age of 15 globally. The majority of deaths in children aged 5 to 14 have been associated with Salmonella enterica serovar Typhi, with 49,000 deaths, according to the Lancet report. It adds that in children older than newborns but younger than 5, S. pneumoniae was the deadliest pathogen, responsible for 225,000 deaths. The pathogen associated with the most neonatal deaths was K. pneumoniae, with 124,000 deaths, the study adds.
Dr Sumit Ray, who heads intensive care at St Stephen’s Hospital, said nearly 20-25% of infection-related deaths involve pathogens resistant to most available drugs. Recently, Apollo Hospitals introduced an Antimicrobial Stewardship Program to improve antimicrobial use and patient outcomes. Dr Sangita Reddy, joint chief executive, Apollo, said that antibiotic resistance is one of the major health threats facing the world today. “We have to deal with it effectively,” he said.

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