09/16/2013 12:05 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Will the Medicine Cabinet Be Empty When You or Your Child Need Life-Saving Antibiotics? (Slideshow)

CDC works 24/7 to save lives and protect people. Part of that responsibility includes sounding the alarm about health threats.

Today, we are publishing a report about what happens when microbes outsmart our best drugs.

By our most minimal estimate, at least two million people per year in the United States get infections that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die as a result. For some microbes and some patients, our medicine cabinet is nearly empty and we can no longer treat patients.

This landmark report gives us the first snapshot of antibiotic resistance threats with the most impact on human health. Many numbers are new, and some existing, but this is the first time they have been put together and ranked to give an overall picture of antibiotic resistance in the United States.

Many people view antibiotic resistance as a problem that happens somewhere else -- other medical practices or facilities, other farms, other people.

This report shows that antibiotic resistance is happening here, in your community, in your healthcare facility, in your medical practice, and on the farms that feed us.

Most of the 18 microbes included in this report are common. Urgent threats include three bacteria: CRE or carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, Clostridium difficile, and drug-resistant gonorrhea.

Urgent Threats Require Urgent Action

Without urgent and aggressive action, more patients will be thrust back to a time when simple infections can be deadly. And, the loss of effective antibiotics will undermine treatment of infectious complications in patients with other diseases. Many medical advances -- joint replacements, organ transplants, cancer therapy, diabetes treatment, rheumatoid arthritis therapy -- depend on the ability to fight infections with antibiotics.

Until now, we've stayed one step ahead of disaster through the development of new drugs. Today, experts estimate that new drugs could be a decade or more away. That's 10 years of more lives lost because of drug-resistant infections. We can do better.

CDC Recommends Four Core Actions

  • First, prevent infections.
  • Second, track drug-resistant infections to focus prevention and control efforts, including through better diagnostic tests.
  • Third, use antibiotics responsibly. About half of antibiotic use in humans unnecessary or inappropriate.
  • And fourth, develop new drugs and tests to better detect and treat these infections.
Antibiotics are a precious national resource. Preserving them requires involvement of everyone who uses antibiotics: healthcare providers, healthcare leaders, the agriculture industry, manufacturers, policy makers, and patients.

Saving antibiotics won't be easy, but we now know how to prevent and reverse antibiotic resistance -- we just need to do it. There's still time. But not much time.

Current Antibiotic Threats in the U.S.