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CDC Director: Antibiotic Resistance Could Pose a Huge Threat

Update Date: Jul 23, 2014 09:54 AM EDT

According to the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), antibiotic resistance could pose a huge threat in the near future. Director Thomas Frieden stressed the importance of taking immediate action before the situation becomes the "next pandemic."

"Every day we delay it becomes harder and more expensive to fix this problem," he said on Tuesday according to The Hill. "We talk about the pre-antibiotic era and the antibiotic era; if we're not careful we will soon be in the post-antibiotic era. And, in fact, for some patients and some pathogens we're already there."

Antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria are dangerous because they do not respond to the traditional kinds of antibiotics. Without treatment, patients' survival rates can dip drastically. Frieden reported that around 23,000 Americans die every year due to infections that have become resistant to medications. In order to prevent this number from growing, Frieden stated that the healthcare system has to be more effective in identifying patients carrying drug-resistant strains. By identifying them early, doctors can prevent the spread of these deadly infections.

"Anti-microbial resistance has the potential to harm or kill anyone in the country, undermine modern medicine, to devastate our economy and to make our health care system less stable," Frieden said reported by USA Today. "We always want to be part of the solution, but sometimes in health we're part of the problem."

The director added that medical professionals have to avoid overprescribing antibiotics. Researchers believe that the development of these resistant strains is linked to the excessive use of antibiotics.

"We've done a study that says about a third of all antibiotics used in this country are either unnecessary or inappropriate," Frieden said.

In response to this growing problem, the CDC will be launching a new program that will allow hospitals to monitor all of the antibiotics that are being dispensed. Hospitals will also have access to real-time patterns of antibiotic resistance so that doctors become aware of which medications will be the most effective to use. The CDC added that hospitals could help prevent drug resistance by incorporating an "antibiotic stewardship program," which would track how antibiotics are being used.

Frieden also addressed the recent problems with laboratory safety lapses.

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