Antibiotic-resistant infections killing twice as many Americans as once thought

Some antibiotics have become less effective over time due in part to overuse and misuse according to medical experts

Still critical are policies to strengthen immunization, increased funding for CDC to support infection prevention measures, antibiotic stewardship in all health care settings, and increased funding to support research that will further our understanding of resistance and help us evaluate our approaches. "As things evolve over time, certain bugs become more of a threat while others we get a better handle on", Casalotti said. Their new estimate holds that 44,000 people a year were dying due to these infections, Craig said.

In addition, Redfield encouraged people to make sure they're up to date on vaccinations, which reduces the rates of infection in general and thus can decrease antibiotic use in sick people.

"But we also see people from everyday life, who are young and otherwise healthy, who get a MRSA infection on their skin", she said, referring to methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, which the CDC lists as a serious threat.

That's because the infections are resistant to all but one class of antibiotics, increasing the risk of infertility in women and HIV among men.

The CDC had previously estimated about 2 million infections and 23,000 deaths in a 2013 report.

Helen Boucher, chief of infectious diseases at Tufts University Medical Center, cares for many transplant patients who are vulnerable to these infections. "It's a pathogen we didn't even know about when we put out the last report in 2013", said Michael Craig, CDC's senior adviser for antibiotic resistance coordination and strategy.

And, even though the agency notes great strides have been made in preventing the spread of germs and infections - especially in healthcare settings - officials say the progress could be lost without more action.

Scientists, doctors and public health officials have warned of this threat for decades, and the new report reveals the top dangers and troubling trends.

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Antibiotics have been doled out unnecessarily by Global Positioning System and hospital staff for decades, fueling once harmless bacteria to become superbugs.

The report examined bacteria and fungi from the electronic health records of about 700 US hospitals, and categorized 21 different infections into lists titled "urgent threats", "serious threats", "concerning threats", and "watch list". According to the report, almost 2.8 million people suffer infections from these "superbugs" every year. "There's not universal agreement on what constitutes a drug-resistant infection", said the paper's lead author, Dr. Jason Burnham of Washington University in St. Louis.

Bacteria are constantly evolving to fend off the drugs used to kill them.

While this report gives the picture in the United States, the rapid rise of infections that are resistant to now available treatments has global resonance.

People can help fight antibiotic resistance by not requesting the medications for every illness that comes their way, Casalotti said.

For instance, this was how the 12% reduction in C. difficile was calculated, according to the CDC: "Among the 3,205 [acute-care hospitals] in the United States with enough data to calculate an SIR, 12% had an SIR significantly higher (worse) than 0.71, the value of the national SIR". Majority were prescribed for conditions that don't respond to antibiotics, such as colds, sore throats, flu and other viral illnesses.

At the same time, the report shows an increase in community-acquired resistant infections, telling us that the work ahead continues to be complex and will demand a multipronged, One Health approach.

And infections from resistant group A streptococcus - which causes strep throat and scarlet fever - have quadrupled since the 2013 report to more than 5,000. These include bacteria that cause common urinary tract infections, which in some cases now require courses of intravenous antibiotics to treat. They also carry mobile genetic elements that can spread resistance to other germs. It is often resistant to all the major antifungal drugs.

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