July 24, 2014 -- Tougher measures to control antibiotic resistance need to be taken in the coming years, to avoid the possibility of it becoming the "next pandemic," the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.
During an event at the National Press Club, CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said the agency plans to isolate, track and prevent bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics in hospitals, USA Today reported.
Antibiotics and similar drugs -- which are also called antimicrobials -- have been used widely to treat infections for decades, according to the CDC, but that has caused some bacteria to mutate and become resistant to these drugs.
"Antimicrobial resistance has the potential to harm or kill anyone in the country, undermine modern medicine, to devastate our economy and to make our health care system less stable," Frieden said Tuesday, the newspaper reported. In fact, antibiotic resistance costs $20 billion in health care spending a year, he added.
Frieden also addressed recent safety lapses at U.S. government labs, which included the discovery of live samples of anthrax and a cross-contaminated strain of bird flu, USA Today reported. The incidents prompted the CDC to shutter two of its research labs and vow to strengthen its lab-safety regulations.
On Tuesday, Frieden reiterated that no one was exposed to any pathogens and that the agency continues to work on improving lab safety, according to the newspaper.
"If you work with dangerous organisms day after day, month after month, year after year, sometimes there is a tendency to get lax," Frieden said, USA Today reported. "What we have to ensure is that though human error may be inevitable, we should do everything in our power to make sure that . . . there will not be human harm."