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Untreatable infections: CDC sets threat levels for drug-resistant bacteria

Most “urgent” threats are CRE bacteria, C-Diff and Neisseria gonorrhoeae

CNN News Wire | 9/17/2013, 12:52 p.m.
Health officials have been warning us about antibiotic overuse and bacteria resistance for a long time. But today the Centers ...
For the first time, the CDC is categorizing antibiotic-resistant organisms by threat level. That's because, in their conservative estimates, more than 2 million people get antibiotic-resistant infections each year, and at least 23,000 die because current drugs no longer stop their infections. Centers for Disease Control

Frieden said if the current trends continue, “the medicine cabinet may be empty for patients who need them in the coming months and years.”

To avoid what Frieden calls a “post-antibiotic” era, where none of the existing drugs work anymore and new ones haven’t been approved, the CDC has created a four-step plan to stem the tide of antibiotic resistance.

The government agency hopes to better track infections in the future to know when a bacteria is becoming drug-resistant. By spotting the trend earlier, scientists may be able to develop new antibiotics quicker.

You can also do your part, the CDC said, by preventing infections in the first place. Preventing infection starts with practicing good hand hygiene and safe food-handling, so you don’t get sick in the first place. Since many antibiotic-resistant infections are spread in hospital settings, patients and their families should feel empowered to ask doctors and other health care personnel coming into their rooms if they have washed their hands.

Patients should also only take antibiotics when they are really necessary. Changing the way antibiotics are used is perhaps “the single most important action needed to greatly slow the development and spread of antibiotic-resistant infections,” Frieden said.

Patients need to demand fewer antibiotics and doctors have to resist patients requests for them when they know they won’t work. Also, lowering the use of antibiotics in animals to only when it’s absolutely necessary can contribute to stretching the life and usefulness of available drugs, Frieden said.

Miriam Falco | CNN