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Fight Against Superbugs Gets More Attention in Obama Budget

Wed, 03/05/2014 - 8:29am
LAURAN NEERGAARD, AP Medical Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sounding an alarm about the growing threat of superbugs, the Obama administration is proposing a jump in spending to fight antibiotic-resistant germs in hospitals.

Infections that can withstand some of the best antibiotics already are killing more than 23,000 Americans a year, and some bacteria are becoming resistant to drugs of last resort, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Tuesday's budget, the CDC is seeking $30 million to open specialized laboratories in five parts of the country to help local hospitals more quickly diagnose and combat drug-resistant infections, said CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden.

The labs would offer rapid mapping of all of the bug's genes to better spot outbreaks, and the program would work to help hospitals and communities tackle the problem, he said.

If funded at $30 million annually for five years, the CDC estimated the program could cut in half the rate of one especially dangerous intestinal germ called Clostridium difficile, or C-diff — and thus prevent at least 20,000 deaths, 168,000 hospitalizations and over $1 billion in health care costs. That's in addition to fighting other bacterial threats.

Separately Tuesday, the CDC called for every hospital to establish a program to track and improve antibiotic prescribing. While antibiotics can be life-saving, overuse and misuse of the drugs also spur bacteria to develop resistance. Health officials said doctors in some hospitals prescribe antibiotics three times as often as others, for similar patients.

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