We are surrounded by bacteria. They are in the ground we walk on, in the food we eat, in the water we drink. They live inside of us. Most of the time, our coexistence with these tiny beings is peaceful; some are even beneficial to us. But there is a small group among them that can cause us certain problems; in fact, infections caused by only 33 species together constitute the second cause of death in the worldonly behind cardiovascular diseases.

This is the conclusion of an article published in the prestigious scientific journal The Lancet, that based on the data of the Global Burden of Diseases 2019 and of the Global Research on Antimicrobial Resistance has estimated that 7.7 million deaths in 2019, before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, were directly caused by this group of pathogens. This figure is equivalent to one in eight deaths worldwide.

More than 80% of the deadly load of pathogens

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The authors of the work, they explain, selected these 33 species because they account for more than 80% deadly charge of all pathogens. This is interesting, because most of them are not species with high mortality: rather, they are ubiquitous.

On the other hand, it must be borne in mind that this growing lethal burden also contributes to the antibiotic resistance that many strains of these species are developing and that make it especially difficult to treat, especially nosocomial cases (that originate in hospital spaces).

Another aspect that they attended to is the type of infectionspecifically selecting eleven types (among them, those of the lower respiratory tract, those of the bloodstream or the gastrointestinal).

It’s about the first time global estimates are made on the deaths that occur worldwide due to these pathogens, and for this reason the results seem to conflict with data such as those of the WHOwhich place cancer in the same place in the sinister ranking.


GBD 2019 Antimicrobial Resistance Collaborators. Global mortality associated with 33 bacterial pathogens in 2019: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019. The Lancet (2022). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(22)02185-7.