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CDC publishes new antibiotic resistance threat report



November 01, 2013
Area(s) of Interest: Drug Prescribing/Dispensing Patient Care Public Health 

Every year, more than two million people in the United States people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die as direct a result of these infections, according to a new report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The report, "Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2013," presents the first snapshot of the burden and threats posed by antibiotic-resistant germs having the most impact on human health. The threats are ranked in categories: urgent, serious, and concerning.


Threats were assessed according to seven factors associated with resistant infections: health impact, economic impact, how common the infection is, a 10-year projection of how common it could become, how easily it spreads, availability of effective antibiotics, and barriers to prevention. Infections classified as urgent threats include carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, drug-resistant gonorrhea, and Clostridium difficile, a serious diarrheal infection usually associated with antibiotic use. C. difficile alone causes about 250,000 hospitalizations and at least 14,000 deaths every year in the United States.


“Antibiotic resistance is rising for many different pathogens that are threats to health,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “If we don’t act now, our medicine cabinet will be empty and we won’t have the antibiotics we need to save lives.”


Fighting public perception


Research shows that most Americans have either missed the message about appropriate antibiotic use or they simply don’t believe it. It’s a case of mistaken popular belief winning out over fact. According to public opinion research, there is a perception that “antibiotics cure everything.”


Americans believe in the power of antibiotics so much that many patients go to the doctor expecting to get a prescription. And they do. Why? Physicians often are too pressured for time to engage in lengthy explanations of why antibiotics won’t work. And, when the diagnosis is uncertain — as many symptoms for viral and bacterial infections are similar — doctors are more likely to yield to patient demands for antibiotics.


To help physicians and other clinicians to educate patients about appropriate antibiotic use the California Medical Association (CMA) Foundation's Alliance Working for Antibiotic Resistance Education (AWARE) project has teamed up with the CDC and others to bring attention to this growing concern.


The CMA Foundation will be getting the word out via news articles, opinion editorials and letters to the editor over the next month, leading up to "Get Smart About Antibiotics Week," Nov. 18-24, 2013. The goal of the "Get Smart" campaign is to highlight the problem of antibiotic resistance and the importance of appropriate antibiotic use.


The "Get Smart About Antibiotics Week" campaign aims to slow the rise of antibiotic resistance by:


  • Promoting adherence to prescribing guidelines among providers

  • Decreasing demand for antibiotics for viral upper respiratory infections among healthy adults and parents of young children

  • Increasing adherence to prescribed antibiotics for upper respiratory infections

  • To these ends, the CMA Foundation encourages physicians and other clinicians to download its antibiotic awareness toolkit. The toolkit, available for download at the AWARE website (www.aware.md), contains an array of clinical resources and patient education materials to help reduce inappropriate antibiotic use.


    Additional Resources:


  • CDC "Get Smart About Antibiotics Week" web page: www.cdc.gov/getsmart

  • CDC 2013 Antibiotic Threat Report: www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/threat-report-2013

  • AWARE website: www.aware.md

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