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This award-winning blog supplements the articles in Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

Untreatable: A wide range of pathogens are becoming impervious to antibiotics

In a figure that immediately struck me as an underestimate, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 23,000 Americans die every year as a direct result of acquiring an antibiotic-resistant infection.

A new CDC report gives a snapshot of the burden and threats posed by the daunting variety of antibiotic-resistant infections. The stripped down number is indeed an acknowledged underestimate, as the CDC included only patient deaths that occurred as a direct result of a drug-resistant infection. Of course, drug-resistant pathogens contribute significantly to many more deaths, some of which are not even captured in surveillance systems. “This is a floor. We wanted the cleanest number, the least subjective number,” a CDC official told the New York Times.

Driven by misuse and overuse of antibiotics, drug resistant pathogens are an increasing problem in the community. Most of the deaths occur in hospitals, nursing homes and other settings where vulnerable patients acquire infections that can be extremely difficult to treat with the limited antibiotic options available.