ATLANTA -- Leaders at the Atlanta-based CDC said patients, physicians and researchers all play a role in stopping or slowing the spread of dangerous antibiotic-resistant drugs.
"We feel that this issue of antibiotic resistance is one where we need to sound the alarm because there's an opportunity to take action now to prevent this from becoming a much bigger problem," said Dr. Arjun Srinivasan in an interview with 11Alive's Jennifer Leslie. He's the CDC's Associate Director for Healthcare Associated Infection Prevention Programs.
CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden began to raise awareness two weeks ago by issuing an alert about the threat of Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE).
He was followed this week by the chief medical officer for England, Sally Davies, who said antibiotic resistance poses a catastrophic threat to medicine.
They exist today in five percent of hospitals in the U.S.
Down the road, they could make it impossible to perform life-saving treatments like organ transplants and cancer chemotherapy that pose a high risk for infections.
"Antibiotic resistance can really turn back the clock on a lot of the medical advances we've enjoyed for the past many decades," Dr. Srinivasan.
Part of the problem is the dwindling antibiotic pipeline.
New drugs are more difficult to develop, and they don't come with clear financial returns.
"We need new antibiotics," Dr. Srinivasan said. "We need research organizations and pharmaceutical companies to get in the business of finding new antibiotics."
Another issue is the overuse of antibiotics on the market now.
"About half of the time when an antibiotic is prescribed, it's not need at all or it's not exactly the right antibiotics. It's unnecessary or inappropriate," Dr. Srinivasan added.
He said patients need to listen to their doctors when they say antibiotics are not the answer for an ailment.