(USA TODAY) -- President Obama is proposing to double spending to combat the threat of "nightmare bacteria" spreading in hospitals.
Obama's proposed budget, released today, includes $30 million annually for the
next five years to detect and prevent "superbug" infections, which are
resistant to even the strongest antibiotics, according to an
announcement from the Department of Health and Human Services.
money would be used to set up regional labs to identify outbreaks more
quickly and to help hospitals collaborate on reducing the bacteria's
spread, among other programs.
Combating antibiotic-resistant infections in this way could cut in half the number of hospital-acquired infections with C. difficile,
a toxic bacteria that can cause severe diarrhea and death, said Thomas
Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That would save 20,000 lives, prevent 150,000 hospitalizations and save
$2 billion in health care costs, according to the CDC. The initiative
also could cut the rates of other resistant bacteria, including MRSA,
salmonella and CRE, or carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae.
a statement, the Infectious Diseases Society of America said Obama and
Congress should go even further to combat antibiotic resistance. In
particular, the society said Congress should give the Food and Drug
Administration the power to quickly approve antibiotics for patients
suffering from resistant infections. Congress also should pass tax
credits to spur research and development of new antibiotics, as well,
the group says.
More than 2 million Americans are sickened every
year by antibiotic-resistant infections and at least 23,000 die from
them, the society says.
The budget announcement came after the CDC
released a separate study showing that doctors and hospitals are
putting patients at risk of deadly infections because of frequent and
sometimes careless use of antibiotics. Antibiotics are a staple of
hospital care, and more than half of patients receive one before being
discharged, the report found.
Yet doctors and others in some
hospitals prescribe three times as many antibiotics as in other
hospitals, even for patients with similar conditions, according to an
analysis of more than 11,000 hospitalized patients.
found potential errors in one-third of cases involving urinary tract
infections, as well as in the use of a powerful antibiotic called
vancomycin. In some cases, doctors prescribed antibiotics without
running a urine test or when patients didn't have symptoms. In other
cases, doctors gave antibiotics for too long a period.
studies have found the problem of improper prescribing to be even worse,
with mistakes made in up to half of cases in which patients got
Although antibiotics can be life saving, using them
too frequently promotes the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria,
which are immune to the strongest medications. Patients are already
suffering and dying from infections that are untreatable with any
medication, Frieden said. The new report is an effort to "sound the
alarm" about the problem.
"Poor prescribing practices put patients
at risk," Frieden said. "The bottom line is that we have to protect
patients by protecting antibiotics."
Misusing antibiotics also
puts patients at serious risk of developing an antibiotic-resistant
infection, Frieden said. In the study, hospitalized patients who
received broad-acting antibiotics - those that kill a wide variety of
bugs - were three times more likely to develop dangerous infections with
bacteria called Clostridium difficile, or C. diff.
About 250,000 hospitalized Americans a year develop C. diff infections, according to the CDC.
Dangerous C. diff bacteria can be picked up in hospitals. Although the bugs can often be kept in check by friendly gut bacteria, C. diff
can multiply if beneficial gut bacteria are killed by antibiotics,
which often wipe out the body's so-called "good bugs" along with the
bad. The antibiotics that most often lead to C. diff infections include fluoroquinolones, cephalosporins, clindamycin and penicillins, according to the Mayo Clinic.
used mathematical models to estimate how changing prescribing patterns
might affect these infections. They found that reducing the use of
antibiotics that most often cause C. diff by 30% can reduce these
infections in hospitalized patients by more than 26%. That could have
wider effects outside the hospital, by reducing the number of the
infections in the community, as well, researchers write.
Frieden said every hospital should have a program to use antibiotics more responsibly.
that put such programs in place can save $200,000 to $900,000 a year,
the study says. As part of the announcement Tuesday, the CDC issued
guidelines for hospitals to improve their prescribing. "Improving
antibiotic prescribing can save today's patients from deadly superbugs
and protect lifesaving antibiotics for tomorrow's patients," Frieden
said in a statement.
The United Kingdom already has sharply cut its rate of C. diff
infections through a nationwide "antibiotic stewardship" initiative,
said Arjun Srinivasan, a physician and CDC medical epidemiologist.
doctors and hospitals need to do better, the U.S. health care industry
is working on the problem, said John Combes, senior vice president at
the American Hospital Association.
"We recognize we must improve
our practices, not only for the benefit of patients under our care but
to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics for future patients,"
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