New CDC Report: Today’s Drug-Resistant Health Threats

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Improved infection control and antibiotic prescribing could save 37,000 lives over five years

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Every year, more than two million people in the United States 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 a first-ever snapshot of the burden and threats posed by the antibiotic-resistant germs that have the most impact on human health. This report is also the first time that CDC has ranked these threats into categories of urgent, serious, and concerning.

  •     In addition to the illness and deaths caused by resistant bacteria, the report found that C. difficile, a serious diarrheal infection usually associated with antibiotic use, causes at least 250,000 hospitalizations and 14,000 deaths every year.
  •     The loss of effective antibiotic treatments will not only cripple the ability to fight routine infectious diseases but will also undermine treatment of infectious complications in patients with other diseases. Many advances in medical treatment, such as joint replacements, organ transplants, and cancer therapies, are dependent on the ability to fight infections with antibiotics. If the ability to effectively treat those infections is lost, the ability to safely offer people many of the life-saving and life-improving modern medical advances will be lost with it.
  •     The use of antibiotics is the single most important factor leading to antibiotic resistance around the world. Antibiotics are among the most commonly prescribed drugs used in human medicine. However, up to half of antibiotic use in humans and much of antibiotic use in animals is unnecessary or inappropriate.

To combat antibiotic resistance, CDC has identified four core actions that must be taken:

1.    Preventing Infections, Preventing the Spread of Resistance: Avoiding infections in the first place reduces the amount of antibiotics that have to be used and reduces the likelihood that resistance will develop during therapy;

2.    Tracking: CDC gathers data on antibiotic-resistant infections, causes of infections and whether there are particular reasons (risk factors) that caused some people to get a resistant infection;

3.    Improving Antibiotic Use/Stewardship: Perhaps the single most important action needed to greatly slow the development and spread of antibiotic-resistant infections is to change the way antibiotics are used;

4.    Development of Drugs and Diagnostic Tests: Because antibiotic resistance occurs as part of a natural process in which bacteria evolve, we will always need new antibiotics to keep up with resistant bacteria as well as new diagnostic tests to track the development of resistance.

Vital Signs is a report that appears on the first Tuesday of the month as part of the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The report provides the latest data and information on key health indicators.

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