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A new report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says millions of Americans are at risk from drug-resistant superbugs that cause gonorrhea, C. difficile, and carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae.
A new report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says millions of Americans are at risk from drug-resistant superbugs that cause gonorrhea, C. difficile, and carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE).
The CDC report said that at least 2 million people in the United States each year develop bacterial infections that are resistant to one or more types of antibiotics-and at least 23,000 will die from the infections.
“Antibiotic resistance is rising for many different pathogens that are threats to health,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. “If we don’t act now, our medicine cabinet will be empty and we won’t have the antibiotics we need to save lives.”
Many medical experts attribute the problem to overprescribing of antibiotics, as pathogens eventually adjust to the drugs used to treat them. At the same time, few companies are working to drugs to replace the once-potent antibiotics.
The problem is not unique to America. Health officials in England have said antibiotic resistance there poses a catastrophic health threat. And the World Health Organization has reported identifying a "superbug" strain of gonorrhea.
Three superbugs most concern CDC officials and have been classified as urgent threats. They are:
· CRE. Frieden called CRE a “nightmare bacteria” that is resistant to the strongest antibiotics. About 9,300 CRE infections are reported each year and it causes 600 deaths annually, according to the report. Almost half of hospital patients who get bloodstream infections from CRE bacteria die from the infection.
· C. difficile, the most common hospital-based infection in the United States, causing 250,000 infections and killing 14,000 people each year. The CDC report said C. difficile has begun to resist antibiotics and is aided by the overuse of antibiotics. It causes life-threatening diarrhea and can spread from person to person via equipment, healthcare workers, or visitors. Deaths from C. difficile rose 400% from 2000 to 2007.
· Drug-resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae. There are more than 300,000 reported cases of gonorrhea that are resistant to any antibiotic, which is almost one third of cases (820,000) estimated in the United States. Traditionally, gonorrhea is treated with tetracycline, cefixime, ceftriaxone, and azithromycin. But the CDC said N. gonorrhoeae has become resistant to these medications.
The CDC’s plan to combat these superbugs includes encouraging the development of new antibiotics, preventing hospital-based infections from occurring and containing the spread of such infections, and prescribing antibiotics more sparingly.