A report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said infections classified as urgent threats include: carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE; drug-resistant gonorrhea; and Clostridium difficile, a serious diarrheal infection usually associated with antibiotic use.
"Antibiotic resistance is rising for many different pathogens that are threats to health," Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, said in a statement. "If we don't act now, our medicine cabinet will be empty and we won't have the antibiotics we need to save lives."
The use of antibiotics is the single most important factor leading to antibiotic resistance -- up to 50 percent of all the antibiotics prescribed for people are not needed or are not prescribed appropriately, Frieden said.
Antibiotics are also commonly used in food-producing animals to prevent, control and treat disease, as well as promote growth. To help ensure that medically important antibiotics are used judiciously in food-producing animals, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently proposed guidance describing a pathway for using these drugs only when medically necessary and targeting their use to only address diseases and health problems.
"Every time antibiotics are used in any setting, bacteria evolve by developing resistance. This process can happen with alarming speed," said Dr. Steve Solomon, director of CDC's Office of Anti-microbial Resistance.
The CDC identified four core actions critical to halting antibiotic resistance:
-- Preventing infections to prevent the spread of resistance.
-- Avoiding infections reduces the amount of antibiotics that have to be used and reduces the likelihood that resistance will develop. Drug-resistant infections can be prevented by immunization, infection prevention actions in healthcare settings, safe food preparation and handling, and general hand washing.
-- Improving antibiotic use/stewardship by changing the way antibiotics are used. Up to half of antibiotic use in humans and much of antibiotic use in animals is unnecessary.
-- Tracking antibiotic-resistant infections, causes of infections and whether there are particular reasons -- risk factors -- that cause some people to get a resistant infection.
-- Developing drugs and diagnostic tests because antibiotic resistance occurs as part of a natural process in which bacteria evolve and cannot be slowed but not completely stopped.
Notable deaths of 2014 [PHOTOS]