Fighting Superbugs Now Could Save 37,000 Lives
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HospitalsAugust 5, 2015

Fighting Superbugs Now Could Save 37,000 Lives

by Halosil

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are leading threats in USA, experts say

Liz Szabo, USA TODAY

The USA could save 37,000 lives over the next five years by taking immediate action to improve the way it fights health care-associated infections, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Infections with superbugs — bacteria that can’t be killed even with standard antibiotics — cause more than 2 million illnesses and at least 23,000 deaths a year, according to the CDC. These bacteria can spread when people overuse antibiotics. Superbugs often spread in the hospital, especially among patients with weakened immune systems.

An additional 250,000 patients are treated in hospitals every year for the bacteria Clostridioides difficile, or C. diff, which can spread easily in hospitals and flourish in patients treated with antibiotics, which can wipe out healthy bacteria normally found in the gut, allowing dangerous bugs to take over. C. diff kills 15,000 Americans a year.

These bugs are among the “leading threats we face in this country,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said.

Based on current trends, the number of infections caused by four of the most dangerous bacteria is likely to increase 10% over the next five years. By taking immediate action, the country could prevent an estimated 619,000 health careassociated infections over that time, as well as save $7.7 billion, according to the CDC’s mathematical model. “Antibiotic resistance is a public health crisis,” said Amanda Jezek, vice president of public policy and government relations for the Infectious Diseases Society of America, who wasn’t involved in the new report.

Hospitals take steps to control infections, such as telling staff to wash their hands frequently and wear disposable gowns, but “that doesn’t protect them from bringing in resistant germs from other facilities,” said John Jernigan, director of CDC’s Office of Health Associated Infections Prevention Research and Evaluation.

President Obama’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2016 nearly doubled funding to fight superbugs, to more than $1.2 billion.