Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to site content Skip directly to page options
CDC Home

Untreatable: Today’s Drug-Resistant Health Threats

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.

Graphics / Images

  • How Antibiotic Resistance Happens

    This is a title

    "How Antibiotic Resistance Happens"
    Entire Infographic

  • Examples of How Antibiotic Resistance Spreads

    This is a title

    "Examples of How Antibiotic Resistance Spreads"
    Entire Infographic

  • National Summary Data

    This is a title

    "National Summary Data"
    Entire Infographic

  • National Summary Data

    This is a title

    "National Summary Data"
    Entire Infographic

  • Clostridium Difficile

    This is a title

    Clostridium difficile
    Entire Infographic

  • Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae

    This is a title

    Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae
    Entire Infographic

  • Drug-resistant Gonorrhoeae

    This is a title

    Drug-resistant Gonorrhoeae
    Entire Infographic

  • Illustration: Medical illustration of Acinetobacter

    This is a title

    Medical illustration of Acinetobacter

  • Illustration: Medical illustration of Campylobacter

    This is a title

    Medical illustration of Campylobacter

  • Illustration: Medical illustration of Candida

    This is a title

    Medical illustration of Candida

  • Illustration: Medical illustration of Clostridium difficile

    This is a title

    Medical illustration of Clostridium difficile

  • Illustration: Medical illustration of carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae

    This is a title

    Medical illustration of carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae

  • Illustration: Medical illustration of carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae

    This is a title

    Medical illustration of Enterococcus

  • Illustration: Medical illustration of extended-spectrum β-lactamase

    This is a title

    Medical illustration of extended-spectrum β-lactamase

  • Illustration: Medical illustration of tuberculosis

    This is a title

    Medical illustration of tuberculosis

  • Illustration: Medical illustration of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)

    This is a title

    Medical illustration of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

  • Illustration: Medical illustration of Neisseria gonorrhoeae

    This is a title

    Medical illustration of Neisseria gonorrhoeae.

  • Illustration: Medical illustration of non-typhoidal Salmonella

    This is a title

    Medical illustration of non-typhoidal Salmonella.

  • Illustration: Medical illustration of Pseudomonas aeruginosa

    This is a title

    Medical illustration of Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

  • Illustration:  Medical illustration of Salmonella Typhi

    This is a title

    Medical illustration of Salmonella Typhi

  • Illustration:  Medical illustration of Shigella

    This is a title

    Medical illustration of Shigella

  • Illustration:  Medical illustration of Streptococcus agalactiae

    This is a title

    Medical illustration of Streptococcus agalactiae

  • Illustration:  Medical illustration of Streptococcus pyogenes

    This is a title

    Medical illustration of Streptococcus pyogenes

  • Illustration:  Medical illustration of Streptococcus pneumoniae

    This is a title

    Medical illustration of Streptococcus pneumoniae

  • Illustration:  Medical illustration of vancomycin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (VRSA).

    This is a title

    Medical illustration of vancomycin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (VRSA).

  • Illustration:  Medical illustration of tuberculosis.

    This is a title

    Medical illustration of tuberculosis

  • Photo: CDC microbiologist, Valerie Albrech

    This is a title

    CDC microbiologist, Valerie Albrecht, holds up two plates of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)

  • Photo: CDC’s Kitty Anderson

    This is a title

    CDC’s Kitty Anderson holds up a 96-well plate used for testing the ability of bacteria to growth in the presence of antibiotics.

  • Photo: CDC staff show two plates growing bacteria

    This is a title

    CDC staff show two plates growing bacteria in the presence of discs containing various antibiotics. The isolate on the left plate is susceptible to the antibiotics on the discs and is therefore unable to grow around the discs. The one on the right has a CRE that is resistant to all of the antibiotics tested and is able to grow near the disks.

  • Photo: CDC microbiologist, Tatiana Travis

    This is a title

    CDC microbiologist, Tatiana Travis, sets up real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to detect drug-resistant pathogens.

  • Photo: CDC microbiologist, Kitty Anderson

    This is a title

    CDC microbiologist, Kitty Anderson, looks at a 96-well plate used for testing the ability of bacteria to growth in the presence of antibiotics.

  • Photo: CDC microbiologist, Johannetsy Avillan

    This is a title

    CDC microbiologist, Johannetsy Avillan, holds up a plate that demonstrates the modified Hodge test, which is used to identify resistance in bacteria known as Enterobacteriaceae. Bacteria that are resistant to carbapenems, considered “last resort” antibiotics, produce a distinctive clover-leaf shape.

  • Photo: CDC microbiologist, Kitty Anderson

    This is a title

    CDC microbiologist, Kitty Anderson, looks at a 96-well plate used for testing the ability of bacteria to grow in the presence of antibiotics.

  • Photo: CDC microbiologist, Johannetsy Avillan

    This is a title

    CDC microbiologist, Johannetsy Avillan, holds up a plate that demonstrates the modified Hodge test, which is used to identify resistance in bacteria known as Enterobacteriaceae. Bacteria that are resistant to carbapenems, considered “last resort” antibiotics, produce a distinctive clover-leaf shape.

  • Photo: CDC microbiologist, Alicia Shams

    This is a title

    CDC microbiologist, Alicia Shams, demonstrates Klebsiella pneumoniae growing on a MacConkey agar plate. Klebsiella pneumoniae is the most common Enterobacteriaceae that is drug resistant.

  • Photo: Plates of plates of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus

    This is a title

    Plates of plates of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in CDC’s healthcare-associated infections laboratory.

  • Photo: Yellow-green fluorescence of Clostridium difficile

    This is a title

    Yellow-green fluorescence of Clostridium difficile under long-wave UV irradiation on a CCFA plate.

  • Photo: Preparing S.agalactiae (Group B Streptococci) for serotyping

    This is a title

    Preparing S.agalactiae (Group B Streptococci) for serotyping and antimicrobial susceptibility testing for CDCs Active Bacterial Core surveillance (ABCs).

  • Photo: Setting up an autoinoculator for loading a broth microdilution panel

    This is a title

    Setting up an autoinoculator for loading a broth microdilution panel for antimicrobial susceptibility testing of S.pneumoniae for CDCs Active Bacterial Core surveillance (ABCs).

Additional Resources

Contact Information

CDC Media Relations
(404) 639-3286
media@cdc.gov

Spokespersons

Tom Frieden, MD, MPH

Biography

Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH

Antibiotic resistance is rising for many different pathogens that are threats to health. If we don’t act now, our medicine cabinet will be empty and we won’t have the antibiotics we need to save lives.

Tom Frieden, MD, MPH - Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Michael Bell, MD

Biography

Photo: Michael Bell, MD

We are approaching a cliff. If we don’t take steps to slow or stop drug resistance, we will fall back to a time when simple infections killed people. We are asking everyone who uses antibiotics, especially healthcare providers, healthcare leaders, the agriculture industry, manufacturers, policy makers, and patients to step up to this threat and fully engage with us to stop it.

Michael Bell, MD - Deputy Director of CDC’s Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion

Steve Solomon, MD

Biography

Photo: Steve Solomon, MD

Every time antibiotics are used in any setting, bacteria evolve by developing resistance and that process can happen with alarming speed.  These drugs are a precious, limited resource—the more we use antibiotics today, the less likely we are to have effective antibiotics tomorrow.

Steve Solomon, MD - Director of CDC’s Office of Antimicrobial Resistance

 
CDC 24/7 – Saving Lives. Protecting People. Saving Money Through Prevention. Learn More About How CDC Works For You…
Contact Us:
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    1600 Clifton Rd
    Atlanta, GA 30333
  • 800-CDC-INFO
    (800-232-4636)
    TTY: (888) 232-6348
  • Contact CDC-INFO
Share
Compartir
USA.gov: The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention   1600 Clifton Rd. Atlanta, GA 30333, USA
800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) TTY: (888) 232-6348 - Contact CDC–INFO
A-Z Index
  1. A
  2. B
  3. C
  4. D
  5. E
  6. F
  7. G
  8. H
  9. I
  10. J
  11. K
  12. L
  13. M
  14. N
  15. O
  16. P
  17. Q
  18. R
  19. S
  20. T
  21. U
  22. V
  23. W
  24. X
  25. Y
  26. Z
  27. #