CDC reports more Americans dying from antibiotic-resistant infections

Nov. 15, 2019

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its updated Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States (AR Threats Report) indicating that antibiotic-resistant bacteria and fungi cause more than 2.8 million infections and 35,000 deaths in the U.S. each year.

That means, on average, someone in the U.S. gets an antibiotic-resistant infection every 11 seconds and every 15 minutes someone dies. When Clostridioides difficile, a bacterium which is not typically resistant but can cause deadly diarrhea and is associated with antibiotic use, is added to these, the U.S. toll of all the threats in the report exceeds three million infections and 48,000 deaths.

Using data sources not previously available, the new report shows that there were nearly twice as many annual deaths from antibiotic-resistant infections as CDC originally reported in 2013. Since then, the new report shows, prevention efforts have reduced deaths from antibiotic-resistant infections by 18 percent overall and by nearly 30 percent in hospitals. Without continued vigilance, however, this progress may be challenged by the increasing burden of some infections.

CDC’s 2019 report thus establishes a new national baseline of infections and deaths from antibiotic-resistant germs. Moreover, the new report categorizes the top antibiotic-resistant threats based on level of concern to human health: urgent, serious or concerning.

In recent years, there have been fewer infections from five of the germs previously listed as “serious.”  Infections from the urgent threat “nightmare bacteria” carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) have remained stable—a noteworthy accomplishment given how quickly and broadly this deadly germ spread across the U.S. in the early 2000s.

“The new AR Threats Report shows us that our collective efforts to stop the spread of germs and preventing infections is saving lives,” says Robert R. Redfield, M.D., director of the CDC. “The 2013 report propelled the nation toward critical action and investments against antibiotic resistance. Today’s report demonstrates notable progress, yet the threat is still real. Each of us has an important role in combating it. Lives here in the U.S. and around the world depend on it.”

New in the 2019 report:

Antibiotic resistance threats list—The list of 18 germs includes two new urgent threats: drug-resistant Candida auris and carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter, bringing the number of urgent threats to five. These are added to the three identified in 2013: CRE, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, and Clostridioides difficile.

Watch list— Identifies three additional germs that have yet to spread resistance widely or are not well understood in the U.S., but that CDC and other public health experts closely monitor.

Trends—For some germs, CDC studied how estimates of antibiotic-resistant infections and deaths have changed over time. Resistant infections and deaths from germs often associated with hospitals are steadily declining. Resistance to essential antibiotics is increasing in seven of the 18 germs.

Electronic health data—For the first time, the infection and death estimates for healthcare-associated germs were calculated using electronic health data from hospitals.

Overall, there has been significant progress preventing infections and deaths from resistant germs typically associated with hospitals. Deaths from antibiotic-resistant infections in hospitals went down 28 percent from 2012 to 2017. Nevertheless, antibiotic-resistant germs often found in healthcare, including CRE and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), caused more than 85 percent of the total deaths calculated in the report.

CDC has the report.