Drug-Resistant Germ Threat Is Worsening, Puzzling: CDC

Trends are more worrisome, and scientists lack answers
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 13, 2019 6:15 PM CST
CDC Finds Drug-Resistant Bacteria Is Bigger Threat
Ella Balasa, of Richmond, Virginia, who has cystic fibrosis and an antibiotic-resistant bacteria lodged inside her damaged lungs, prepares an antibiotic injection at a clinic in Connecticut.   (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Drug-resistant germs have long been known to be a serious health threat, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says the problem is worse, and more baffling, than previously thought. Someone in the US contracts an antibiotic-resistant infection every 11 seconds, the Washington Post reports, and someone dies of one every 15 minutes. That adds up to 3 million illnesses and 35,000 deaths each year. Other estimates are higher. A Washington University study using broader parameters put the annual death toll at more than 150,000. And the CDC reports worrisome trends. Infections are spreading more widely outside hospitals, even as superbug infections in hospitals have fallen, and more pathogens are developing resistance to antibiotics and other drugs. "Some miracle drugs no longer perform miracles," the report says, per CNN.

The report, which is the first from the CDC on the subject since 2013, has five drug-resistant superbugs on its list of "urgent threats"; three were on the list six years ago. Bacteria are constantly evolving to counter the drugs intended to kill them, and genetic research shows germs are better now at learning from each other to defeat antibiotics. Frail, elderly people are the most vulnerable, but anyone can catch a superbug. "This is a problem that ultimately affects all of us," said a CDC senior adviser. "It literally has the potential to affect every person on the planet." The CDC assesses 18 antibiotic-resistant bacteria and fungi by the seriousness of the threat they pose here. (Read more drug-resistant bacteria stories.)

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