The Deadly Disease Caused by Antibiotics

Thursday, October 09, 2014
Clostridium difficile colitis (photo: CDC)

In the world of drug-resistant super bugs, this one is a particularly lethal.


Clostridium difficile colitis is just one of many new threats to human health that have evolved as a result of overuse of antibiotics. But its harmful impact was enough for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to single it out in a new report on “antibiotic resistance threats.”


So far, CDC researchers estimate Clostridium difficile colitis has killed about 14,000 patients. Another quarter million people have become ill as a result of it. It is caused by the use of antibiotics that kill microbes in a patient’s gut, usually in a hospital setting. Clostridium difficile bacteria then take over and cause a form of colitis which results in life-threatening diarrhea.


Antibiotics aren’t overused only on humans. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says their use on farms has continued to go up. From 2009 to 2012, the administering of these drugs to livestock and other animals increased by 16%.


Farmers give livestock antibiotics not only to prevent disease but to help the animals grow faster and bring in better prices at market. Most of the drugs are available at feed stores without prescription.


Nearly 70% of the drugs, were deemed “medically important,” meaning they can affect humans, The Atlantic reported.


“Such widespread use of antibiotics has led to bugs that are getting tougher and tougher to treat,” The Atlantic’s Cari Romm wrote. “Worldwide, strains of drug-resistant tuberculosis and gonorrhea are on the rise,” adding that drug-resistant illnesses kill about 23,000 people each year.


The Food and Drug Administration is trying to curtail some of the animal antibiotic use. Beginning last year, they encouraged pharmaceutical manufacturers to require veterinary prescriptions for some of the drugs.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2013 (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) (pdf)

The FDA Says Farmers Are Giving Animals Too Many Antibiotics (by Cari Romm, The Atlantic)

Clostridium Difficile Colitis (Wikipedia)

Failure to Curb Use of Antibiotics in Livestock Signals Danger for Humans (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


Leave a comment