Until the 1940s and the development of antibiotic drugs, bacteria often killed people who became infected. Now, scientists say we have used so many antibiotics for so many ailments that germs are building up a resistance. Many drugs are no longer as effective, and some simply don't work at all.
Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have renewed their warning about super germs that are impervious to drugs. In fact, the CDC says we're “at a tipping point” because so many germs no longer respond to drugs that, in the past, killed them.
The CDC is trying to mobilize health care facilities to maintain better control over the spread of these super germs. It says these bacteria are usually spread by patients, who are transferred from a hospital with poor controls, to one that is doing its best to keep these germs out.
Lack of coordination
“Lack of coordination between facilities can put patients at increased risk,” the CDC said in its Alert. “Now more than ever is the time for public health authorities and health care facilities to work together, sharing experiences and connecting patient safety efforts happening across the state.”
Much of the responsibility for carrying out this coordination falls on facility administrators. The CDC says they should be implementing systems to alert receiving facilities when transferring patients who have drug-resistant germs. They should also review and perfect infection control actions within facilities.
The threats, meanwhile, have grown more menacing. There are “nightmare” germs called CREs that can cause deadly infections and have become resistant to all or nearly all antibiotics in use today. CREs spread between health care facilities, like hospitals and nursing homes, when appropriate actions are not taken, the CDC said.
Another drug-resistant bacteria is MRSA. These infections commonly cause pneumonia and sepsis, which can be deadly.
The germ Pseudomonas aeruginosa can cause HAIs, including bloodstream infections. Strains resistant to almost all antibiotics have been found in hospitalized patients. The CDC says these germs are some of the most deadly resistant germs identified as "urgent" and "serious" threats.
C. difficile, a germ usually found in health care facilities, can be picked up from contaminated surfaces or spread from a healthcare provider's hands. While most C. difficile doesn't start off as resistant to antibiotics, it can run free when a patient is put on an antibiotic and the germs that normally keep C. difficile in check die.
23,000 deaths a year
The CDC says drug resistant germs cause about two million illnesses each year and kill about 23,000 patients. Many of these deaths, the agency says, could be prevented with more emphasis on coordination.
This isn't the first time the CDC has issued this warning. It tried to raise awareness two years ago, obviously with little in the way of results.
Antibiotic resistance is also a global problem. A World Health Organization (WHO) report issued in April found that only a quarter of member countries had adequate plans in place to control the use of antibiotics.
“This is the single greatest challenge in infectious diseases today,” said Dr Keiji Fukuda, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Health Security. “All types of microbes, including many viruses and parasites, are becoming resistant to medicines. Of particularly urgent concern is the development of bacteria that are progressively less treatable by available antibiotics.”
Fukuda said this drug resistance is happening in all parts of the world, so a global response will be needed to overcome it.