The Threat of Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotic resistant infections assessed in CDC report and found to be serious health threat

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Using antibiotics carefully and correctly has an impact far beyond the health of just one individual patient — a fact stressed in a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The report looked at the threat of antibiotic-resistant infections in the US and found some areas of major concern and some ways to improve the situation.

According to CDC, over 2 million people develop an antibiotic-resistant infection each year and around 23,000 of these patients will die.

Going forward, the CDC recommended a number of steps, including preventing infections through methods like hand washing and the proper use of antibiotic medications.

"Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water."

As CDC explains, "Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in some way that reduces or eliminates the effectiveness of drugs, chemicals, or other agents designed to cure or prevent infections. The bacteria survive and continue to multiply causing more harm."

The new report looked at a number of factors relating to drug-resistant infections in the US. These factors included health impact, economic impact, how common an infection is, how common it could become in 10 years, how easily it spreads, the availability of effective antibiotics and barriers to preventing the infection.

Based on these factors, CDC placed antibiotic-resistant infections into three different categories: urgent, serious or concerning. Three types of infections were found to be "urgent" threats.

One, Clostridium difficile is a serious diarrheal infection that leads to an estimated 250,000 hospitalizations and 14,000 deaths each year.

The two other urgent threats were carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), which was estimated to cause an annual 9,300 infections and 610 deaths, and drug-resistant gonorrhea, which was estimated to cause an annual 246,000 infections, though it leads to less than five deaths each year.

In a CDC news release, Steve Solomon, MD, director of CDC’s Office of Antimicrobial Resistance explained the seriousness of the situation, saying, “Every time antibiotics are used in any setting, bacteria evolve by developing resistance. This 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,” said Dr. Solomon.

So what's to be done? CDC recommended four major actions to stop this resistance.

First, CDC noted that by preventing infections before they even occur, the spread of resistance is prevented. "Drug-resistant infections can be prevented by immunization, infection prevention actions in healthcare settings, safe food preparation and handling, and general hand washing," explained CDC.

The importance of closely tracking antibiotic-resistant infections was also highlighted, as this information can help experts create effective strategies to help prevent the spread of resistant bacteria.

Proper use of antibiotics was stressed, with CDC noting that much of our current antibiotic use is unnecessary.

"The commitment to always 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," explained CDC.

Finally, CDC recommended the development of new antibiotics to keep pace with resistant bacteria and new tests to track the bacteria's development be continued.

This report was published September 16 by the CDC. No conflicts of interest were reported.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 17, 2013
Last Updated:
September 17, 2013