‘Stop Relying Only on New Antibiotics,’ Says CDC

By Miguel Moreno

Superbugs aren’t anything new, but drug-resistant germs are getting stronger.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared four germs an “urgent threat” in its 2019 Antibiotic Resistance Threats Report (pdf). The reports affirms that the post-antibiotic era is here and urges people to “[s]top relying only on new antibiotics.”

“People will often demand antibiotics when they don’t need them,” senior scholar Dr. Amesh Adalja from Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security told NTD News in an interview. “And doctors feel pressured to prescribe them because that affects patient satisfaction scores.”

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A nurse checks a patient’s blood pressure at the Remote Area Medical (RAM) healthcare clinic in Wise, Virginia, on July 25, 2008. (John Moore/Getty Images)

A study published by JAMA Internal Medicine suggests that five-star ratings are strongly associated with when doctors prescribe antibiotics. The CDC reports that one-third of prescribed antibiotics in the Unites States are unnecessary.

Adalja recommends doctors take the patient complaint, a complaint he’s accepted before.

“It’s worth it,” he said. “To have the administration yell at you for not prescribing an unnecessary antibiotic should be a badge of honor for physicians.”

If this continues, Adalja said we will continue to lose our means of treating infections.

The Fungal Threat

There are certain superbugs that are as big of a problem as they are mysterious.

Adalja said his studies are currently focused on Candida Auris (C. Auris): a highly drug-resistant fungal superbug that can be deadly.

C. Auris was first detected in Asia about 10 years ago, according to the CDC.

It is known to cause outbreaks in healthcare facilities, and in New York City, it has presented an extra burden.

Candida Auris shown on a petri dish.

New York State records show a total of 27 cases in 2016. By 2017, that number rose eight times. Over 400 cases were detected in 2018.

Adalja said fungal cells, unlike bacteria, are much more complex lifeforms whose cells share similarities with those of humans.

A strain of Candida auris cultured in a petri dish at a CDC laboratory.(Shawn Lockhart/Centers for Disease Control
A strain of Candida auris cultured in a petri dish at a CDC laboratory.(Shawn Lockhart/Centers for Disease Control)

“It makes it much more challenging that you have something that just targets the fungus without targeting the human,” he said.

And like bacteria, C. Auris can get stronger.

“Antibiotics need to be valued, and thought of that way, as something that we would be much worse off without,” said the doctor. “We have time to reverse some of these trends, but only if people actually take this threat seriously.”