CDC sounds alarm on antibiotic overuse in hospitals, not farms

By Sara Wyant

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WASHINGTON, Sept. 16, 2013 - Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a new report today, highlighting the growing threats posed by antibiotic resistance and pointing to antibiotic overuse by humans as the main culprit.

“Antibiotics are among the most commonly prescribed drugs used 
in human medicine. However, up to 50% of all the antibiotics prescribed for people are not needed or are not optimally effective as prescribed,” noted the report.

"The most acute problem is in hospitals," emphasized CDC Director Tom Frieden. "The most resistant organisms in hospitals are emerging in those settings because of poor anti-microbial stewardship among humans."


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The report also noted that the use of antibiotics for promoting growth in food animals is not necessary and should be phased out.

At least 2 million people in the United States become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections. Many more people die from other conditions that were complicated by an antibiotic-resistant infection, noted the CDC in a new report .

"Patients need to understand that antibiotics are not the solution for every illness," Steven Solomon, MD, director of the office of anti-microbial resistance said. "It's important that people not take antibiotics when they aren't necessary. It contributes to resistance, and it also has consequences to the patient in the form of side effects."

“Antibiotics are also commonly used in food animals to prevent, control, and treat disease, and to promote the growth
 of food-producing animals,” the CDC said. “The use of antibiotics for promoting growth is not necessary, and the practice should be phased out. Recent guidance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) describes a pathway toward this goal.”

The report noted that “it is difficult to directly compare the amount of drugs used in food animals with the amount used in humans, but there is evidence that more antibiotics are used in food production.”

One of the “gaps in knowledge” about antibiotic resistance is that the use of antibiotics in humans and animal production is not systematically collected, according to the report.

The 114-page report counts infections from 17 drug-resistant bacteria and one fungus, pathogens that caused an overwhelming majority of drug-resistant bacterial infections in the country.  The infections were grouped into Urgent Threat, Serious Threat and Concerning Threat categories.   The most urgent infections were Clostridium difficile, Carbapenem-resistant enterobacterioacea (CRE) and drug resistant Neisseriae Gonorrohoeae

CDC cautioned that the U.S. could enter a "post antibiotic" era when antibiotics are no longer effective.

 

Long-time critics of using antibiotics in animal production seemed disappointed in the report.

 

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) said CDC “missed an opportunity to advise veterinarians and federal and state agencies on reducing the quantity of antibiotics used in animal production.

 

“Although CDC says antibiotics for growth promotion in food animals should be "phased out," the report lacks specific detail, including advice for veterinarians, the food industry, and the agencies that regulate food safety-the Food and Drug Administration and the United States Department of Agriculture. And CDC's advice for consumers on safe food handling may help people avoid illness, but it doesn't help stop the problem of resistance development,” CSPI said.

 

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