Antibiotic-resistant bacteria responsible for over 33,000 deaths in Europe in 2015, study finds

Research from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has shown that infection with antibiotic-resistant bacteria was responsible for more than 33,000 deaths in 2015, with almost 70% of infections coming from one of just four bacterial species.

Testing antimicrobial resistance in petri dish

Infections with antibiotic-resistant bacteria accounted for over 33,000 deaths across Europe in 2015, researchers from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control have calculated.

The research, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases (online, 5 November 2018)[1]
, analysed data from the European Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance Network (EARS-Net) which was collected between 1 January 2015 and 31 December 2015. The EARS-Net covers countries in the EU and European Economic Area (EEA).

The authors estimated that, during that time, there were 671,689 infections with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, resulting in 33,110 deaths and the loss of 874,571 disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs). The study also found that 63.5% of infections and 72.4% of deaths were associated with healthcare, suggesting that the effects of antibiotic-resistant infections predominantly occur in hospitals and other healthcare settings.

The burden of antibiotic-resistant infections, equal to 170 DALYs per 100,000 population, had increased since 2007 and was similar to the combined burden of influenza, tuberculosis and HIV, which amounted to 183 DALYs per 100,000 population calculated between 2009 and 2013.

The authors found that the bacteria with the largest effect on health in 2015 were third-generation cephalosporin-resistant Escherichia coli, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, carbapenem-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and third-generation cephalosporin-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae. Almost 70% of the DALYs were caused by infections with one of these four bacteria.

All age groups were found to be affected by infections with antibiotic-resistant bacteria but the burden was highest among infants aged one year or younger, and in those aged 65 years or older. Italy and Greece had a substantially higher estimated burden of antibiotic-resistant bacteria than the other countries in the EU or EEA.

“Our burden estimates provide useful information for public health decision-makers prioritising interventions for infectious diseases,” the researchers said.


[1] Cassini A, Diaz Högberg LD, Plachouras D, et al. Attributable deaths and disability-adjusted life-years caused by infections with antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the EU and the European Economic Area in 2015: a population-level modelling analysis. The Lancet Infect Dis 2018; in print. doi: 10.1016/S1473-3099(18)30605-4

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, November 2018;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2018.20205705