Lockdowns reduced spread of deadly invasive bacterial diseases, saved millions of lives: Oxford University-led study

Lockdowns reduced spread of deadly invasive bacterial diseases, saved millions of lives: Oxford University-led study

An Oxford University-led study has suggested that bacterial diseases like pneumonia, meningitis and sepsis, may have been reduced by the lockdowns imposed due to Covid-19 in recent times.

Co-authored by Professor David Murdoch, an infectious disease expert and Dean of the University of Otago, Christchurch, the study says that global lockdowns cut short the spread of deadly invasive bacterial diseases and potentially saved millions of lives.

The most common illnesses caused by invasive bacteria – pneumonia, meningitis and sepsis – are the reasons for deaths worldwide, especially among children and older adults. Like coronavirus, these pathogens are also transmitted via the respiratory route.

Reportedly, in 2016 itself, 336 million cases of lower respiratory invasive infections were reported worldwide. 2.4 million people were believed to have succumbed to death due to the illnesses.

The study has discovered that all countries have witnessed a reduction in invasive bacterial infections between January and May 2020. Compared with the previous two years, around 6000 fewer cases were reported on average in every country, the study said.

It further noticed that illnesses caused by invasive but non-respiratory bacterial species did not decrease, showing that Covid-19 lockdowns had not significantly disturbed the disease reporting methods.

For streptococcus pneumoniae, infections went down by 68% within four weeks of Covid-19-imposed containment measures and by 82 per cent at eight weeks. However, infections due to streptococcus algalactiae did not go down.

According to a Times of India, the researchers of the study believe that the reduction in cases of invasive respiratory bacterial infection was due to low person-to-person transmission, instead of disruption of medical care or disease reporting.

The investigators have stressed vaccination against these diseases with the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions.

“These results clearly demonstrate that Covid-19 containment measures reduce the transmission of other respiratory pathogens and associated diseases, but they also impose a heavy burden on society that must be carefully considered. Therefore, ongoing microbiological surveillance, such as that shown in this study, is essential. Public health efforts must also remain focused on protecting against life-threatening diseases caused by these bacterial pathogens, by implementing the safe and effective vaccines that are available and in use in many parts of the world,” Angela Brugemman, co-author of the study and Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at the University of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Population Health, said.

The researchers studied data from national laboratories and surveillance programmes from 26 countries and territories of six continents. They analysed data on national Covid-19 policies and containment measures with the help of Oxford Covid-19 Government Response Tracker.