BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – According to the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, antibiotic resistance is a “quickly growing, extremely dangerous problem.”
In fact, world health leaders have described antibiotic-resistant bacteria as “nightmare bacteria” that “pose a catastrophic threat” to people in every country in the world, the CDC’s website states.
“Antibiotic resistance is a critical threat to human health,” said Dr. Arjun Srinivasan, associate director for healthcare-associated infection programs at the CDC.
“That sounds like a very impactful statement, and a very serious statement, and it is,” he said during a recent interview with News 4.
Srinivasan, an infectious disease expert, says part of the problem is the slow response to develop new antibiotics.
“Bacteria haven’t slowed down the rate at which they develop resistance. So now we have a mismatch where they’re developing resistance faster than we’re developing new antibiotics,” he said.
As bacteria are exposed to antibiotics, they mutate and essentially figure out a way to outsmart the drugs, and then treatment options become more limited each time that happens.
“There’s a lot of talk about the post-antibiotic era and are we entering a post-antibiotic era. For some patients we are already there,” he said. “There are definitely patients who are hospitalized in the United States for whom we have no antibiotic options.”
The case involving a Nevada woman in her 70s who died last year from an infection caused by a class of “superbugs” known as carbapenem resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) raised a lot of eyebrows in the medical community.
The patient developed septic shock and died.
“That case was not the first time in this country that we have encountered a patient who had an infection with an organism that was resistant to all of the antibiotics that we currently have available for treatment,” Srinivasan explained.
“This is something that happens, and it happens rarely. But it does happen in the United States.”
What’s more, Srinivasan says antibiotics are foundational to modern medicine; things we take for granted, like cancer chemotherapy and organ transplants.
He says these huge advancements depend on our ability to treat infections.
“If we don’t have effective antibiotics, if drug resistance becomes more of a problem. All of a sudden we’re talking about stepping backwards from some of these advances,” he said.
“We can’t do chemotherapy as aggressively as we would like to. Maybe there are patients who can’t get organ transplants because of antibiotic resistance.”
Srinivasan says the problem is far too complex for any one group to address, and that it will take everyone working together in a “new and unprecedented” level of collaboration.
“It really is going to take academics. It’s going to take government agencies. It’s going to take industry. Everybody has to work together,” he said. “The good news is we’re seeing a lot of progress being made on bringing those groups together to really try and advance this issue.”