A troubling new report from the CDC estimates that in the United States, more than two million people are sickened every year with antibiotic-resistant infections, with at least 23,000 dying as a result . The estimates are based on conservative assumptions and are likely minimum estimates. From the report:
Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people acquire serious infections with
bacteria that are resistant to one or more of the antibiotics designed to treat those
infections. At least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these antibiotic-resistant infections. Many more die from other conditions that were complicated by an antibioticresistant infection.
In addition, almost 250,000 people each year require hospital care for Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) infections. In most of these infections, the use of antibiotics was a major contributing factor leading to the illness. At least 14,000 people die each year in the United States from C. difficile infections. Many of these infections could have been prevented .
Antibiotic-resistant infections add considerable and avoidable costs to the already
overburdened U .S . healthcare system . In most cases, antibiotic-resistant infections require prolonged and/or costlier treatments, extend hospital stays, necessitate additional doctor visits and healthcare use, and result in greater disability and death compared with infections that are easily treatable with antibiotics . The total economic cost of antibiotic resistance to the U .S . economy has been difficult to calculate . Estimates vary but have ranged as high as $20 billion in excess direct healthcare costs, with additional costs to society for lost productivity as high as $35 billion a year (2008 dollars) .
Here is one important point: taking antibiotics when it they are not needed can lead to the development of antibiotic resistance. When resistance develops, antibiotics may not be able to stop future infections . Every time someone takes an antibiotic they don’t need, they increase their risk of developing a resistant infection in the future.
The New York Times raises this point:
One point of contention has been the extent to which industrial-scale animal farming contributes to the problem of antibiotic-resistant infections in humans. The government has estimated that more than 70 percent of antibiotics in the United States are given to animals. Companies use them to prevent sickness when animals are packed together in ways that breed infection. They also use them to make animals grow faster, though federal authorities are trying to stop that.
Infections from one of the most pervasive types of drug-resistant bacteria tracked in the report, MRSA, have been declining. Invasive MRSA infections in hospitals went down by more than half from 2005 to 2011, according to a paper published Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. However, the number of invasive MRSA infections picked up outside health care settings has not changed much, and researchers pointed out that the number of those types of infections has for the first time outstripped the number acquired in hospitals.