The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released their first-ever report on antibiotic resistance: Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2013. In it, CDC director Tom Frieden states that, “antimicrobial resistance is one of our most serious health threats. Infections from resistant bacteria are now too common.”

The CDC estimates that antibiotic-resistant bacteria are the cause of infections in more than 2 million people each year, of which more than 23,000 die as a result. (This figure is a conservative estimate, they say. Numbers are probably much higher.) The CDC has prioritized bacteria in the report according to one of three categories:

Urgent Threats

  • Clostridium difficile
  • Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE)
  • Drug-resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae

Serious Threats

  • Multidrug-resistant Acinetobacter
  • Drug-resistant Campylobacter
  • Fluconazole-resistant Candida (a fungus)
  • Extended spectrum beta-lactamase producing Enterobacteriaceae (ESBLs)
  • Vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE)
  • Multidrug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa
  • Drug-resistant Non-typhoidal Salmonella
  • Drug-resistant Salmonella Typhi
  • Drug-resistant Shigella
  • Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
  • Drug-resistant Streptococcus pneumoniae
  • Drug-resistant tuberculosis

Concerning Threats

  • Vancomycin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (VRSA)
  • Erythromycin-resistant Group A Streptococcus
  • Clindamycin-resistant Group B Streptococcus

They call for the following four actions to fight the spread of antibiotic resistance:

1)      Preventing infections from occurring and preventing resistant bacteria from spreading

2)      Tracking resistant bacteria

3)      Improving the use of antibiotics

4)      Promoting the development of new antibiotics and new diagnostic tests for resistant bacteria.

The report also calls for phasing out the use of antibiotics in agriculture. They also stress the importance of reducing the unnecessary use of antibiotics for humans, stating that up to 50 percent of all antibiotics prescribed for people are “not needed or are not optimally effective as prescribed.”

The wording in the report is strong, likely to help overcome the “potentially catastrophic consequences of inaction.” Not everyone is optimistic. In response to the report, the Lancet stated, “Raising the profile of the problem of antimicrobial resistance is always welcome, but it begs the question of why we are still facing an issue identified decades ago? The report itself presents a timeline of emerging resistance, showing that reports date back to 1943.” Indeed.

Will this report inspire action? Let’s hope so.