CDC: Deaths from Drug-Resistant Infections on the Rise

Ending Overuse in Livestock Critical to Keeping Antibiotics Working for People

WASHINGTON—New estimates released today from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) find drug-resistant infections and deaths are on the rise, sickening more than 2.8 million people, and taking the lives of 35,000, in the United States each year. Earlier this year, however, leading infectious disease experts estimated the death toll is more than four times higher than the numbers released today, suggesting an even more dire threat to public health.

A statement follows from Avinash Kar, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC):

“There is no doubt that drug-resistant infections are on the rise. While CDC’s estimates have improved, they remain conservative. Solving antibiotic resistance will require ending the rampant overuse of these drugs in livestock. Until then, these lifesaving drugs will increasingly fail when sick people need them—and, as CDC recognized, ‘everyone is at risk.’”


A recent estimate from a Washington University study put the death toll from antibiotic-resistant infections in the U.S. much higher than CDC’s new figures, at more than 160,000 deaths a year, which would make it the fourth leading cause of death in the country. The figures have been adopted by the Infectious Disease Society of America, which is comprised of leading experts in the field.

Nearly two-thirds of antibiotics that are important for human medicine are currently sold for use in livestock, not people. In the U.S., about 96% of those drugs are routinely distributed en masse in feed or water—most often to animals that are not sick to help them survive crowded and unsanitary conditions on industrial farms.

This practice contributes to the rise and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and increases the risk of drug-resistant infections in humans. Leading medical experts—from the World Health Organization to the American Academy of Pediatrics—warn that we must stop overuse of antibiotics in human medicine and animal agriculture, or else the life-saving drugs we rely on to treat common infections and enable medical procedures will increasingly stop working.


The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Chicago; Bozeman, Montana; and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC