The US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) said we are losing ground in the battle against superbugs – the harmful bacteria resistant to nearly all kinds of antibiotics – as at least one person dies of antibiotic-resistant infection every 15 minutes in the US.
According to a CDC report, while overall deaths from these superbugs are decreasing, new infections due to resistance are rising, which shows healthcare authorities still have a long way to go in combatting the issue.
Dr Arjun Srinivasan, who works on infection control at the CDC and helped compile the report, said antibiotic resistance was a "staggering burden" that infected 2.8 million every year -- about one new infection every 11 seconds.
The earlier "underestimated" problem that poses a threat to patients in hospitals, as well as, the community exist largely because of the overuse and misuse of antibiotics, which allows the targeted bacteria to develop a defence against them, making those lifesaving drugs less and less effective, Dr Srinivasan said.
He stressed the superbug infections that antibiotics can no longer treat effectively run the full gamut of different types of etiologies, ranging in severity, and kill 35,900 people every year in the US. The report, however, suggested there was an 18 per cent overall reduction in deaths due to superbug infections, but stressed nearly 30 per cent of these deaths occurred in hospitals alone.
The report showed it was possible to combat antibiotic resistance and such infections "to a certain extent" with better antibiotic use, but Dr Srinivasan said prescription of antibiotics seen too often in the United States, both in hospitals and in outpatient settings, should be avoided when not needed.
He said it was important for people to know they were exposing themselves to all sorts of potential side effects from antibiotics if they took one when not needed. About 7,00,000 people around the world die of drug-resistant diseases each year, experts estimate, and the figure can rise to 10 million by 2050 if radical changes are not made now.
The CDC's urgent list of resistant infections since 2013 added a hardy type of fungi called Candida auris (C. auris) and Carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter, a gram-negative-bacteria that's often harmless to healthy people but dangerous to hospital patients.
The report included strains of the fungus Aspergillus fumigatus resistant to the azole class of antifungals, resistant Mycoplasma genitalium, another sexually transmitted disease, and resistant Bordetella pertussis, the bacteria that causes pertussis or whooping cough, in its "Watch List" of potential threats.
A new antibiotic can have great, even life-saving, results when introduced, but bacteria gradually adapt and make them less effective, leaving behind a disease with no cure. As per the report, it is not just diseases like tuberculosis, but common problems like STDs and urinary tract infections are also becoming more resistant to treatment, and routine hospital procedures like C-sections, joint replacements are becoming more dangerous due to the risk of infection.
The CDC report said the world had already approached a "post-antibiotic era" — a time when antibiotics are pretty much useless and drug-resistant superbug can easily decimate health, and yet healthcare officials continued to dole out too many antibiotics that drove the resistance.
"You and I are living in a time when some miracle drugs no longer perform miracles and families are being ripped apart by a microscopic enemy," the report stressed, emphasizing three ways to curb the problem -- preventing infections in the first place; slowing the development of resistance through improved antibiotic use; stopping the spread of resistance when it does develop.
According to the CDC, US doctors and emergency departments prescribe 47 million antibiotic courses each year for infections that do not need antibiotics. The report stressed healthcare providers must learn when to report cases to the health department to identify unusual resistance and deploy a containment strategy if needed.
Terming the "lack of incentives for manufacturers of pharmaceuticals and active pharmaceutical ingredients to invest in research and development" the major impediment to innovation to tackle antimicrobial resistance, a World Health Organisation (WHO) report said the problem of antibiotic resistance could be tackled if $2 per person per year could be committed for an effective package of measures.
There have been numerous researches in the field of antibiotic resistance and scientists have been working on ways to tackle the resistance by figuring out how bacteria or virus became resistant to a drug.