HealthDay News -- More than 2 million people come down with infections from antibiotic-resistant bacteria every year in the United States, leading to at least 23,000 deaths, according to a report released Monday by federal health officials.
The report marks the first time that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has performed a comprehensive analysis of the impact on society from antibiotic-resistant bacteria, said Dr. Steve Solomon, director of the agency's Office of Antimicrobial Resistance.
"This is scary stuff, and we want people to know about it," he said.
The report outlines how antibiotic resistance occurs in patients and spreads through the community. It also lists medical procedures that have become more dangerous because of these bacteria. Those procedures include dialysis, chemotherapy, complex surgery and organ transplants.
Antibiotic overuse is the single most important factor leading to antibiotic resistance, according to the report. Antibiotics are among the most commonly prescribed drugs, but as many as half of those prescriptions are either not needed or not the best course of treatment for the patient, the report said.
"Patients need to understand that antibiotics are not the solution for every illness," Solomon said. "It's important that people not take antibiotics when they aren't necessary. It contributes to resistance, and it also has consequences to the patient in the form of side effects."
The CDC also faulted the use of antibiotics in food animals to prevent, control and treat disease, and to promote their growth. "The use of antibiotics for promoting growth is not necessary, and the practice should be phased out," the report stated.
The centerpiece of the CDC report is a threat-level assessment for 18 bacteria- and antibiotic-related illnesses, broken down into three categories: urgent, serious and concerning.
Three antibiotic-related illnesses are ranked as urgent threats demanding immediate attention:
Twelve infections from antibiotic-resistant bacteria are listed as serious, and three as concerning. For each bacteria threat, the CDC offers guidance for what healthcare industry officials, medical professionals and the general public can do to limit its spread.
Infections by antibiotic-resistant bacteria add as much as $20 billion in excess direct health-care costs, with additional costs for lost productivity as high as $35 billion a year, according to the report.
In its report, the CDC outlined a four-pronged strategy for combating antibiotic-resistant bacteria:
"As different as these problems are, the same strategies to address them are shared in common," Solomon said. "By helping people understand that those four core strategies are shared among the ways we address all of these antibiotic-resistant bacteria, we put it all in context and provide a glimpse of the big picture."
Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said he appreciates the report's frank, down-to-earth manner.
"[The report] gives us a handle. Something we can use to talk with the public," he said. "Obviously, there is an enormous risk to the health of the public by antibiotic resistance, and it's going to take a multiple-sector response to resolving it."
For more information on antibiotic-resistant bacteria, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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