CDC Says Antibiotic-Resistance Poses Threat, All Must Work to Fight

By Tucker, Charlotte | The Nation's Health, November-December 2013 | Go to article overview

CDC Says Antibiotic-Resistance Poses Threat, All Must Work to Fight


Tucker, Charlotte, The Nation's Health


MORE THAN 23,000 people die every year because they are afflicted with infections of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a report issued Sept. 16. As more strains become resistant and fewer new drugs enter the regulatory pipeline--some estimates say new drugs could be a decade away--the problem is building to a crescendo that could overwhelm health care.

"It is not too late," said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, in a media call discussing the report Sept. 16. "But if we're not careful, the medicine chest will be empty when we go there to look for a lifesaving antibiotic for someone with a deadly infection."

Studies have estimated that in the U.S., antibiotic resistance adds $20 billion in excess direct health care costs, with additional costs to society for lost productivity as high as $35 billion a year.

CDC has divided resistant bacteria into three categories based on factors that include their health and economic impacts, how easily they are spread and the availability of effective antibiotics. The categories, urgent, serious and concerning, will help CDC prioritize work to combat the bugs, Frieden said.

The urgent group includes carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae--or CRE--Clostridium difficile and drug-resistant gonorrhea.

"CRE is the nightmare bacteria we reported on in March," Frieden said, referencing a report released by CDC that found that the bacteria has the potential to kill up to half the people infected with it. It has the ability to spread its resistance to other bacteria, Frieden noted.

Gonorrhea, which causes more than 400,000 infections annually, is growing increasingly resistant to drugs and can cause a variety of infections and infertility, as well as a significant rise in health care costs, Frieden said.

Clostridium difficile, a bacteria that can grow in the gut following the use of strong antibiotics, is also a growing danger.

"Although C. difficile infections are not yet significantly resistant to the drugs used to treat them, most are directly related to antibiotic use and thousands of Americans are affected each year," said the report's executive summary.

Bacteria in the "serious threats" category include drug-resistant campylobacter, streptococcus and tuberculosis. …

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