CDC Sounds Alarm on Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria09/16/13
MONDAY, Sept. 16 (HealthDay News) -- More than 2 million people
come down with infections from antibiotic-resistant bacteria every
year in the United States, leading to at least 23,000 deaths,
according to a report released Monday by federal health
The report marks the first time that the U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention has performed a comprehensive
analysis of the impact on society from antibiotic-resistant
bacteria, said Dr. Steve Solomon, director of the agency's Office
of Antimicrobial Resistance.
"This is scary stuff, and we want people to know about it," he said.
The report outlines how antibiotic resistance occurs in patients
and spreads through the community. It also lists medical procedures
that have become more dangerous because of these bacteria. Those
procedures include dialysis, chemotherapy, complex surgery and
Antibiotic overuse is the single most important factor leading
to antibiotic resistance, according to the report. Antibiotics are
among the most commonly prescribed drugs, but as many as half of
those prescriptions are either not needed or not the best course of
treatment for the patient, the report said.
"Patients need to understand that antibiotics are not the solution for every illness," Solomon said. "It's important that people not take antibiotics when they aren't necessary. It contributes to resistance, and it also has consequences to the patient in the form of side effects."
The CDC also faulted the use of antibiotics in food animals to
prevent, control and treat disease, and to promote their growth.
"The use of antibiotics for promoting growth is not necessary, and
the practice should be phased out," the report stated.
The centerpiece of the CDC report is a threat-level assessment
for 18 bacteria- and antibiotic-related illnesses, broken down into
three categories: urgent, serious and concerning.
Three antibiotic-related illnesses are ranked as urgent threats
demanding immediate attention:
- Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, are a family of bacteria that have developed remarkable drug resistance in recent years. Half the people who get bloodstream infections from CRE die. About 9,300 hospital infections of CRE occur each year. "A lot of those bacteria are becoming resistant to every antibiotic we have," Solomon said of CRE. "We are very concerned about significant spread over the next few years."
- Neisseria gonorrhoeae-- the bacteria that causes gonorrhea -- are showing signs of
resistance to the cephalosporin family of antibiotics. The CDC
estimated that about one-third of the 820,000 annual gonorrhea
infections involve strains that have become antibiotic-resistant.
"The cephalosporins are really the last line of defense we have
against gonorrhea," Solomon said. "It has shown its ability to
become resistant to every antibiotic we throw at it. If we lost
those -- if this cephalosporin-resistant gonorrhea spreads -- that
disease is going to be untreatable."
- Clostridium difficileis bacteria that, although not antibiotic resistant, poses an
urgent threat because it causes diarrhea linked to at least 250,000
hospitalizations and 14,000 American deaths each year.
C. difficileinfections occur because of antibiotic use that
destroys the good bacteria in people's bodies that protect against
illness. "Because there has not been as much success in addressing
the problem of antibiotic overuse, we are flagging that as an
urgent problem because it has to be brought under control," Solomon
Twelve infections from antibiotic-resistant bacteria are listed
as serious, and three as concerning. For each bacteria threat, the
CDC offers guidance for what healthcare industry officials, medical
professionals and the general public can do to limit its
Infections by antibiotic-resistant bacteria add as much as $20
billion in excess direct health-care costs, with additional costs
for lost productivity as high as $35 billion a year, according to
In its report, the CDC outlined a four-pronged strategy for
combating antibiotic-resistant bacteria:
- Preventing infections and preventing the spread of
- Tracking resistant bacteria.
- Improving the use of existing antibiotics.
- Promoting the development of new antibiotics and new diagnostic
tests for resistant bacteria.
"As different as these problems are, the same strategies to address them are shared in common," Solomon said. "By helping people understand that those four core strategies are shared among the ways we address all of these antibiotic-resistant bacteria, we put it all in context and provide a glimpse of the big picture."
Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public
Health Association, said he appreciates the report's frank,
"[The report] gives us a handle. Something we can use to talk with the public," he said. "Obviously, there is an enormous risk to the health of the public by antibiotic resistance, and it's going to take a multiple-sector response to resolving it."
For more information on antibiotic-resistant bacteria, visit the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
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