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CDC Report: Drug-Resistant Bacteria Flourishing Due to Overprescribed Antibiotics

Filed September 19th, 2013 Laurie

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned on Monday that the overprescribing of antibiotic drugs has resulted in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Several forms specifically — antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea, a superbug that causes diarrhea, and a class of fast-growing “nightmare” bacteria — are considered a major threat to public health.

The CDC called the illnesses an “urgent threat” in a newly released report. It also revealed that nearly 2 million people in the U.S. develop serious bacterial infections that are resistant to one or more types of bacteria each year. At least 23,000 die from these infections, according to Reuters.

“For organism after organism, we’re seeing this steady increase in resistance rates,” Dr Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, told Reuters in a telephone interview. “We don’t have new drugs about to come out of the pipeline. If and when we get new drugs, unless we do a better job of protecting them, we’ll lose those, also.”

The CDC blames overprescribing for the rise of antibiotic resistance, giving bacteria the opportunity to “outwit” the very medication used to treat them. Over the past few decades, only a few new antibiotics have been introduced on the market and only a few companies are working on drugs to replace them, Reuters reported.

Antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea isn’t the only threat – C. difficile and a class of bacteria known as carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, are considered urgent threats. C. difficile is the most common hospital-based infection in the U.S and is considered a major threat because it has started to resist antibiotics, and the overuse of antibiotics help it to thrive. The bacteria, spread from person to person on contaminated equipment and healthcare workers’ hands, kills protective bacteria in the gut for months at a time. Deaths caused by C. difficile rose 400 percent from 2000 to 2007 due to the emergence of an antibiotic-resistant strain, according to Reuters.

Drug-resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae causes 246,000 cases of the sexually transmitted disease each year. The drugs that were once considered the best treatment for the illness – tetracycline, cefixime, ceftriaxone and azithromycin – are starting to lose their punch. Infections are easily missed in this country, and for that reason, the CDC says there are likely as many as 820,000 new cases each year – significantly more than the 300,000 that actually get reported, Reuters reported.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, and drug-resistant tuberculosis were not mentioned in the CDC report, but Dr. Edward Septimus, an infectious disease expert at HCA Healthcare System in Houston, Texas, and a member of the Infectious Diseases Society of America’s Antimicrobial Resistance Workgroup, told Reuters that he believes they are part of a “looming health crisis.”

The report offers a four-point plan to help fight the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and stresses the need for new antibiotics, and the need for hospitals to prevent infections from occurring, and to prevent the spread of resistant infections by tracking the spread of resistant infections, and prescribing antibiotics only to patients that truly need them, according to Reuters.

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