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Antibiotic Overuse a 'Huge Threat' to Patient Safety, Says CDC

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, August 18, 2014

With one CDC official saying "we have truly entered a post-antibiotic era," the agency is urging hospitals to develop effective antibiotic stewardship programs to save lives and money.


Arjun Srinivasan, MD

Arjun Srinivasan, MD

With half of hospitals thought to lack an antibiotic stewardship program to prevent emergence of drug-resistant bacteria, the American Hospital Association has teamed up with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help hospitals start these programs.

"We know that antibiotic overuse is a major contributor to huge threats to patient safety in our hospitals," the CDC's Arjun Srinivasan, MD, said during an AHA "Town Hall" webcast last week.

"We're running out of antibiotics to treat common infections, and we're not going to get new ones anytime soon," he said. A lot of hospital antibiotic use is "either unnecessary or in some cases, suboptimal….and we know there's tremendous room for improvement," he added.

The CDC estimates that two million times a year in the U.S., a patient gets infected with a bacterial strain that is resistant to at least one of the first line of antibiotics, leading to 23,000 deaths.

On top of that, Srinivasan said, 250,000 people each year come down with Clostridium difficile, which occurs when antibiotics kill normal healthy bacteria that would otherwise keep it in check. Of these, 14,000 die.

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