Bacterial infections are the second leading cause of death worldwide

A study published on Tuesday in the “Lancet” indicates that with 7.7 million deaths linked to a bacterial infection in 2019, one in eight deaths can be attributed to them.

Bacterial infections are the second leading cause of death worldwide, after heart disease, shows a very large study published Tuesday in the Lancet, citing Staphylococcus aureus and pneumococcus among the most deadly bacteria.

This study selected about thirty bacteria, the most commonly implicated in infections, and evaluated how many deaths were associated with them.

These measurements are carried out as part of the Global Burden of Disease. This vast research program, funded by the Bill Gates Foundation, is of an unparalleled scale, involving several thousand researchers in most countries of the world.

In the end, “deaths associated with these bacteria constitute the second leading cause of death worldwide” after coronary heart disease, which notably includes heart attacks, conclude the authors.

An “urgent priority” in public health

Of the thirty or so bacteria selected, five alone account for more than half of the deaths: staphylococcus aureus, E. coli, pneumococcus, Klebsellia pneumoniae and bacillus pyocyanin.

Staphylococcus aureus is “the leading bacterial cause of death in 135 countries,” the study said. In the youngest (under five years old), however, pneumococcal infections are the most deadly.

For the researchers, these results illustrate how bacterial infections are an “urgent priority” in public health.

They call for work on the prevention of infections, better use of antibiotics (in particular to avoid phenomena of resistance), and more effective use of vaccination.

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