Drug-resistant superbugs are an urgent threat to the world, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The bugs are the result of an overuse of antibiotics.
The report by the CDC, detailed in 114 pages, offered the first comprehensive picture of what drug resistance looks like in the United States.
The Los Angeles Times reports that CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden explained that he hopes the information will encourage doctors, patients, and health officials to take superbugs seriously.
Dr. Frieden explained on Monday, “We talk about a pre-antibiotic era. If we’re not careful, we’ll be in a post-antibiotic era. For some patients and some microbes, we’re already there.”
Drug-resistant tuberculosis is one of many examples of superbugs. Bacteria are able to evolve rapidly and develop a resistance to antimicrobial drugs. As the drugs get stronger, so do the bacteria. The chain of events is likely inevitable, but scientists hope that restricting the use of antibiotics could help remove opportunities for more drug-resistant superbugs to evolve.
ABC News notes that antibiotics like penicillin and streptomycin were first introduced in the 1940s. The drugs were considered one of the greatest advances in the history of medicine. However, as the years went by, some antibiotics stopped working against the bacteria they used to treat.
The CDC’s report mentioned 17 of the most worrisome drug-resistant bacteria currently known to health agencies around the world. More than two million people develop serious infections from them each year. Of those infected, at least 23,000 died.
One of the worst offenders is the staph infection MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus auereus. MRSA kills about 11,000 patients per year. Germs like MRSA have forced health officials to warn that, should the situation get worse, doctors could be more reluctant to do surgery or treat cancer patients. This is because antibiotics may or may not protect patients from infections.
The problem isn’t getting worse for all bugs. Ear infections and strep throat are not becoming as resistant as MRSA, some STDs, and tuberculosis. However, that doesn’t mean that drug-resistant superbugs aren’t a threat. Should they keep getting worse, health officials could be stuck without a treatment plan.
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