Antibiotic Resistance Threats In The US: CDC
September 17, 2013

Two Million US Residents Affected By Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Annually

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” kill approximately 23,000 Americans each year, the US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed on Monday.

In addition, federal health officials also reported that at least two million people fall ill due to these bacterial infections, reports Mike Stobbe and Lindsey Tanner of the Associated Press (AP). This marks the first time that the CDC has released statistics addressing the impact of these antibiotic-resistant germs on human health.

The CDC said that they released the numbers in order to “spotlight the growing threat of germs that are hard to treat because they've become resistant to drugs,” Stobbe and Tanner said. The decision to release the data sends “a very powerful message” regarding the issue, Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) spokeswoman Dr. Helen Boucher told the AP.

While Dr. Boucher said that the information suggests that we are in the midst of a “catastrophe,” New York Times health writer Sabrina Tavernise suggests that the numbers are “substantially lower” than previous estimates. However, part of that could be due to the fact that cases in which drug-resistant infection was present in a patient but was not necessarily the actual cause of death were not included in the fatality rate.

“They have come up with hard numbers where it has been only guesswork,” Dr. Stuart Levy, a professor of microbiology at Tufts University and the president of the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics (APUA), told the Times. “This sets a baseline we can all believe in.”

The CDC also specifically listed three types of bacteria as urgent health risks, according to Kim Painter of USA Today. Those three bacteria are Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), which infects the bloodstream of 9,000 hospital and health-care patients each year; drug-resistant gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted infection that now resists several antibiotics that had been used to treat it; and Clostridium difficile, an infection which causes diarrhea and infects 250,000 people each year, killing approximately 14,000 people in the process.

“Antibiotics like penicillin and streptomycin first became widely available in the 1940s, and today dozens are used to kill or suppress the bacteria behind illnesses ranging from strep throat to the plague,” Stobbe and Tanner said. “The drugs are considered one of the greatest advances in the history of medicine, and have saved countless lives. But as decades passed, some antibiotics stopped working against the bugs they previously vanquished. Experts say their overuse and misuse have helped make them less effective.”

The situation is far from hopeless, however. Earlier this month, researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston published research in the journal mBio reporting that they gained new insight into how some types of antibiotic-resistant bacteria have developed those defenses.

“Scientists observed how bacteria responded to fluorescent labeled daptomycin, one of the ‘last resort’ antibiotics in use today,” explained Linda Larsen of Food Poisoning Bulletin. “The cells divert the antibiotic from the septum and trap it in membrane regions where it becomes ineffective.”

“The cell membrane actually changes during this process due to remodeling of the phospholipids,” she added. “The study was conducted on multidrug-resistant enterococci, but may be applied to other drug-resistant bacteria. Hopefully this research will lead to development of new antibiotics that target the resistance pathway and may impair the cell membrane response to antibiotics.”