The Toll

Drug-resistant organisms take an astonishing toll world-wide. In the United States one of these organisms, Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), kills more Americans every year than emphysema, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease and homicide combined. Almost 2 million Americans a year develop hospital-acquired infections (HAIs), resulting in 99,000 deaths. The vast majority of the mortalities are due to antibacterial (antibiotic)-resistant pathogens. Sepsis and pneumonia alone, two common HAIs, killed nearly 50,000 Americans and cost the US health care system more than $8 billion in 2006. A 2009 survey showed approximately half of the patients in more than 1,000 intensive care units in 75 countries suffered from an infection and the infected patients were twice as likely to die in the hospital as the uninfected patients. Three recent studies of the costs of infections caused by antibiotic-resistant pathogens versus antibiotic-susceptible pathogens show the annual cost to the US health care system of antibiotic-resistant infections to be $21 billion to $34 billion and more than 8 million additional hospital days. At least 25,000 patients in the European Union die from an infection caused by multidrug -resistant bacteria with estimated health care costs productivity losses of more than 1.5 billion Euros.

Community-acquired infections (CA) are increasing as well. The hospitalization rates in New York City for community-acquired Staphylococcus aureus (CA_MRSA) tripled between 1997 and 2006.