antibiotic resistance
July 24, 2014

CDC Director Warns Of Antibiotic-Resistant “Pandemic” During Tuesday Press Event

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Antibiotic resistance could bring about the “next pandemic,” turning run-of-the-mill disease-causing bacteria into nearly untreatable illnesses, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned on Tuesday.

Speaking at a National Press Club event, CDC director Tom Frieden said that the common use of antibiotics and other anti-microbial agents over the past 70 years has caused some pathogens to mutate and become resistant to those drugs, wrote USA Today’s Hoai-Tran Bui.

The growing trend of antibiotic-resistant bacteria can cause patients to “enter the hospital with one disease and leave with another,” Frieden said, using carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) as an example. CRE, he explained, are nearly immune to antibiotics and are able to “jump” from one creature and/or species to another.

“Anti-microbial resistance has the potential to harm or kill anyone in the country, undermine modern medicine, to devastate our economy and to make our health care system less stable,” the CDC director said according to USA Today. Antibiotic resistance is responsible for $20 billion in health care spending annually, he added.

In an attempt to prevent the spread of resistant pathogens, Frieden said that the CDC plans to isolate their existence in medical facilities, and to begin eliminating them through more thorough tracking and tougher safety methods. “We always want to be part of the solution, but sometimes in health we're part of the problem,” he added.

Also on Tuesday, Frieden addressed the laboratory safety issues involving live samples of anthrax and a cross-contaminated strain of bird flu, Bui said. Those incidents forced the CDC to shut down a pair of research labs and commit to improvements in safety procedures at those facilities remaining open.

According to Reuter's reporters Susan Heavey and Julie Steenhuysen, Frieden also revealed during the event that the CDC plans to announce the members of its new safety advisory panel before the end of the week. He said that the panel members consist primarily of biosecurity experts who have no ties to the agency itself.

Frieden told reporters the panel invitations were formally issued on Friday, and that he expected they would be accepted by Wednesday or Thursday. The members will operate under the rules of Federal Advisory Committee Act – regulations emphasizing the need for open meetings, chartering, public involvement, and reporting.

None of the members have ever worked for the CDC, he added, noting that it will be “as independent as we can get.” Frieden also said that no staff or members of the general public were exposed to any disease-causing agents in either incident, and that the agency was still investigating the avian influenza breaches.

“If you work with dangerous organisms day after day, month after month, year after year, sometimes there is a tendency to get lax,” the CDC director added. “What we have to ensure is that though human error may be inevitable, we should do everything in our power to make sure that… there will not be human harm.”