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:
- 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;
- 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;
- 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;
- 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.
CDC Media Relations
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
“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
- Antibiotic / Antimicrobial Resistance
- Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work
- Get Smart for Healthcare
- Clostridium difficile Infection
- Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE)
- Antibiotic-Resistant Gonorrhea
- Cephalosporin-resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae Public Health Response Plan
- Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococcus (VRE) Infection
- Typhoid Fever
- Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
- Pneumococcal Disease
- Drug-resistant Tuberculosis
- Vancomycin-intermediate Staphylococcus aureus (VISA) / Vancomycin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (VRSA)
- Scarlet Fever: A Group A Streptococcal Infection
- Group B Strep (GBS)
- CDC Feature on Strep Throat
- CDC Feature on Necrotizing Fasciitis
- Active Bacterial Core surveillance (ABCs)
- Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work – Promotional and Media Tools
- Digital Press Kit – Get Smart About Antibiotics Week, 2012
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Office-related antibiotic prescribing for persons aged ≤14 years — United States, 1993—1994 to 2007—2008. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2011;60(34):1153-6.
Antimicrobial Resistance: The Big Picture
An Interview With CDC’s Steven L. Solomon, MD
- Cephalosporin-Resistant Gonorrhea in North America– JAMA editorial by Robert D. Kirkcaldy, MD, MPH
- New Treatment Guidelines for Gonorrhea: Antibiotic Change– CDC expert commentary featuring Dr. Robert Kirkcaldy
- Costelloe C, Metcalfe C, Lovering A, Mant D, Hay AD. Effect of antibiotic prescribing in primary care on antimicrobial resistance in individual patients: systemic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2010;340:c2096.
- Hicks LA, Chien YW, Taylor TH Jr, Haber M, Klugman KP; Active Bacterial Core surveillance (ABCs) Team. Outpatient antibiotic prescribing and nonsusceptible Streptococcus pneumoniae in the United States, 1996-2003. Clin Infect Dis. 2011;53(7):631-9.
- Hicks LA, Taylor TH Jr, Hunkler RJ. US outpatient antibiotic prescribing, 2010.N Engl J Med. 2013;368(15):1461–2.
- Huang SS, Johnson KM, Ray GT, Wroe P, Lieu TA, Moore MR, Zell ER, Linder JA, Grijalva CG, Metlay JP, Finkelstein JA. Healthcare utilization and cost of pneumococcal disease in the United States. Vaccine. 2011;29:3398-412.
- Link-Gelles R, Thomas A, Lynfield R, Petit S, Schaffner W, Harrison L, Farley MM, Aragon D, Nicols M, Kirley PD, Zansky S, Jorgensen J, Juni BA, Jackson D, Moore MR, Lipsitch M. Geographic and temporal trends in antimicrobial nonsusceptibility in Streptococcus pneumoniae in the post-vaccine era in the United States. J Infect Dis. 2013, Aug 6. [Epub ahead of print]
- Shapiro DJ, Hicks LA, Pavia AT, Hersh AL. Antibiotic prescribing for adults in ambulatory care in the USA, 2007–09 . J Antimicrob Chemother. 2013, Jul 25. [Epub ahead of print]
- Suda KJ, Hicks LA, Roberts RM, Hunkler RJ, Danziger LH. A national evaluation of antibiotic expenditures by healthcare setting in the United States, 2009. J Antimicrob Chemother. 2013;68(3):715-8.
- Too Much of a Good Thing (4:14)
- Pharmacists Can Make the Difference (2:21)
- Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) (4:57)
Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work Program
- Page last reviewed: September 16, 2013
- Page last updated: September 16, 2013
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