The overuse of antibiotics in medicine and agriculture has long been known to foster the emergence of germs that are resistant to drugs.
On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued the first solid numbers on the extent of the problem. It said that at least two million Americans fall ill from antibiotic-resistant infections each year, of whom at least 23,000 die from the infections, a very conservative estimate.
The agency warned of “potentially catastrophic consequences” unless prompt action is taken. It said that up to half of the antibiotics prescribed for people are not needed or appropriately used (as when a broad spectrum antibiotic is used instead of a more targeted drug).
Overuse of antibiotics on farms, where they are often used to promote growth and prevent disease in healthy animals, also contributes to development of resistant strains of germs.
The new report, for the first time, puts 17 drug-resistant bacteria and a dangerous fungus into three categories based on how big a threat they pose. Three were deemed “urgent threats,” including a bacterium, known as CRE, that is resistant to most drugs and kills a high percentage of people who become infected with it.
The Latest on: Antibiotic Resistance
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