September 16, 2013

Drug-resistant bacteria pose potential catastrophe, CDC warns

The CDC estimates that more than 2 million people in the United States are sickened each year by antibiotic-resistant infections.

The Associated Press

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In this undated photo provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is one form of CRE bacteria, sometimes called “nightmare bacteria.” CRE bacteria is blamed for 600 deaths each year, and can withstand treatment from virtually every type of antibiotic. (AP Photo/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

"The ones at the edge of pan-resistance, we're sounding an urgent alarm," Solomon said. "We need to act now. We do not have antibiotics in the pipeline that are going to be available soon enough to address those problems."

For those microbes and others that are increasingly resistent, the search for new antibiotics is essential, Solomon said.

"We need to invest in [finding] new antibiotics," he said. "History has shown us the bacteria are always going to become resistant."

If new drugs aren't developed to replace the ones that have lost effectiveness, patients will face a dire predicament.

"We're getting closer and closer to the cliff," said Michael Bell, deputy director of the CDC's division of health-care quality promotion. "When we no longer have that second-line drug to rely on, that's when it's a life or death matter."

Beyond developing new treatments for antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the agency on Monday detailed an array of other actions that local communities, government officials and public-health professionals can take to minimize the sickness and deaths caused by the problem each year.

Those include more aggressive work to prevent infections, more closely monitoring resistant bacteria and taking steps to ensure that antibiotics are used more judiciously and wisely in humans and in animals.

"Only through concerted commitment and action," the CDC wrote, "will the nation ever be able to succeed in reducing this threat."


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