The danger of antibiotic resistance became clearer in November with the release of new figures showing that antibiotic resistance is among the top ten causes of mortality in the U.S.
This information is a news hook for all kinds of follow-up stories, from examining the effectiveness of local hospital antibiotic stewardship programs, to parenting articles on the potential dangers of antibiotics to children as we enter the winter season.
On Nov. 13, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that at least 2.8 million antimicrobial-resistant infections are sickening Americans each year and 35,000 die. In addition, another 220,000 people develop illness from Clostridium difficile [C. diff], and 12,000 die from it.
C. diff is a bacteria that can thrive because of the overuse of antibiotics and can cause life-threatening inflammation of the colon.
Adding together the figures, more than 3 million are getting sick from resistant pathogens and 48,000 die, which puts antimicrobial resistance on the list of top 10 causes of death, just above suicides. In 2013, the CDC had estimated that 2 million people were sickened by resistant bugs and 23,000 died annually.
The CDC says its figures are a conservative estimate and some researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine estimated deaths may be closer to 162,044 deaths a year, which would make it the fourth biggest cause of death, after heart disease, cancer and accidents.
“I think the true number is somewhere between Washington University and this new [CDC] number,” says Greg Frank, director of infectious disease policy at the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, which represents companies involved in antibiotics and slowing antimicrobial resistance.
More from the Association of Health Care Journalists here.