Overuse of antibiotics made Americans more vulnerable to a strain of bacteria that caused nearly half a million infections and contributed to at least 29,000 deaths in a single year, U.S. public health officials warned in a study published on Wednesday.
The study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention focused on the Clostridium difficile bacterium, which can cause deadly diarrhea. The findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, highlight how overprescription of antibiotics has fueled a rise in bacteria that are resistant to treatment.
People who take antibiotics are most at risk of acquiring C. difficile because these medications also wipe out “good” bacteria that protect a healthy person against the infection.
“Antibiotics are clearly driving this whole problem,” Clifford McDonald, CDC senior advisor for science and integrity, said on a conference call with reporters.