CDC: Antibiotic-resistant infection problem is worse than originally thought

By Jay Kumar, PSQH

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that antibiotic-resistant (AR) bacteria and fungi cause more than 2.8 million infections and 35,000 deaths per year in the U.S. That’s nearly twice as many deaths from AR infections as CDC originally reported in 2013.

In addition, when factoring in C. difficile, a bacterium that is not typically resistant but can cause deadly diarrhea and is associated with the use of antibiotics, the report expands that total to more than 3 million infections and 48,000 deaths.

Since the original report six years ago, prevention efforts have reduced deaths from AR infections by 18% overall and nearly 30% in hospitals. But the increased number of infections in this new report was found by using previously unavailable data sources.

The new report also categorizes the top AR threats based on level of concern: urgent, serious, or concerning.

“The new AR Threats Report shows us that our collective efforts to stop the spread of germs and preventing infections is saving lives,” said CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, MD, in a release. “The 2013 report propelled the nation toward critical action and investments against antibiotic resistance. Today’s report demonstrates notable progress, yet the threat is still real. Each of us has an important role in combating it. Lives here in the United States and around the world depend on it.”

In the new report, the list of 18 germs includes two new urgent threats, drug-resistant Candida auris and carbapenem-resistant Acinetobactor. These were added to three urgent threats identified in 2013: carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, and C. diff.

The CDC plans to take the following actions to deal with antibiotic resistance:

  • Make sizable investments in every U.S. state in programs such as the AR Lab Network to rapidly detect and help prevent antibiotic-resistant infections.
  • Partner with groups such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and other federal partners, data experts, and healthcare providers and veterinarians to improve the use of the antibiotics we have now.
  • CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will continue to supply samples of resistant germs from the AR Isolate Bank to drug and diagnostic test developers who can uncover new drugs and treatments.
  • Invest millions of dollars finding prevention strategies that can be scaled up across the nation.
  • Work with private industry to enhance food-product safety, medical devices, and surveillance capabilities.
  • Coordinate with domestic partners to expand the national response and prevention capacity, and with global partners to enhance our ability to combat the growing threat of antibiotic resistance worldwide.

The report’s findings show that prevention efforts are working, but additional research and efforts are needed to contain the growing threat, according to the president of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA).

“This data is exciting because it shows that we are not powerless against antibiotic resistance. SHEA members, which include hospital epidemiologists, infection prevention specialists, researchers and pharmacists, are running critically important infection prevention and antibiotic stewardship programs that save lives and help protect patients, making hospitals safer for everyone,” said Hilary Babcock, MD, MPH, president of SHEA, in a release. “We must continue to fund and support effective infection prevention and antibiotic stewardship programs in every healthcare setting and use every tool we have to prevent the spread of antibiotic resistance.”

Download the CDC report to learn more.

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