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CDC Report: Drug-Resistant ‘Superbugs’ Pose Urgent Threat

Agency recommends core actions to halt resistance (September 16)

Every year, more than 2 million people in the U.S. get infections that are resistant to antibiotics, and at least 23,000 people die as a result, according to a new report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The report, Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2013, presents the first snapshot of the burden and threats posed by antibiotic-resistant germs having the greatest effect on human health. The threats are ranked in categories: urgent, serious, and concerning.

Infections classified as urgent threats include carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), drug-resistant gonorrhea, and Clostridium difficile, a serious diarrheal infection usually associated with antibiotic use. C. difficile causes about 250,000 hospitalizations and at least 14,000 deaths every year in the U.S.

According to the CDC, the use of antibiotics is the single most important factor leading to antibiotic resistance. Up to 50% of all the antibiotics prescribed for people are not needed or are not prescribed appropriately.

The CDC has identified four core actions critical to halting resistance:

  • Preventing Infections and Preventing the Spread of Resistance: Avoiding infections reduces the amount of antibiotics that have to be used and reduces the likelihood that resistance will develop. Drug-resistant infections can be prevented by immunization, by infection prevention actions in health care settings, by safe food preparation and handling, and by general hand washing.
  • Tracking: The CDC gathers data on antibiotic-resistant infections, on causes of infections, and on whether there are particular risk factors that cause some people to get a resistant infection. With that information, experts can develop strategies to prevent those infections and to prevent the resistant bacteria from spreading.
  • Improving Antibiotic Use/Stewardship: Up to half of antibiotic use in humans and much of antibiotic use in animals is unnecessary. The commitment always to use antibiotics appropriately and safely — only when they are needed to treat disease — and to choose the right antibiotics and to administer them in the right way in every case is known as “antibiotic stewardship.”
  • Developing Drugs and Diagnostic Tests: Because antibiotic resistance occurs as part of a natural process in which bacteria evolve, it can be slowed but not completely stopped. Therefore, new antibiotics always will be needed to keep up with resistant bacteria, as will new tests to track the development of resistance.

Source: CDC; September 16, 2013.

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