CDC’s claims about “superbug success” don’t add up

According to the latest report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there’s some good news about the fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria, more commonly known as “superbugs.” But when you take a closer look and actually dig into the numbers, there’s far less to celebrate than the CDC would like us to think.

I’ll tell you all about the real numbers—and how to protect yourself against superbugs—in a moment. But first, let’s back up to talk about how superbugs became such a big problem…

Easier to focus on “outside” problems

I’ve always found that people are much more likely to react to “outside” threats and risks, such as superbugs or even the coronavirus. Yet, they have very little reaction to “internal” threats or risks, like their own diet and lifestyle choices. (In other words, things they can actually control!)

I suppose it’s easier, psychologically, to blame something outside of our own control than it is to take responsibility for our own choices. My late mentor, U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop (1917 – 2013), often pointed out this natural tendency.

It’s something that, perhaps, also explains why mainstream medicine has focused so heavily on fighting deadly infectious diseases. Indeed, during the 20th century, mainstream medicine prematurely touted its success in eradicating infectious diseases using “magic bullet” antibiotic drugs.

Then, of course, the bacteria began to adapt faster than we could keep up. They mutated to resist the drugs…and even thrive on them. In fact, just one year after penicillin was released, the medical world had noted that some strains of bacteria had already grown resistant to it.

So, the “magic bullets” of antibiotics quickly became “friendly fire,” as I call them, continuously creating whole, new, resistant classes of bacteria.

At first, you primarily encountered these resistant bugs in hospital settings. But now, you can pick one up just about anywhere.

But worry not—the government health organizations declared a new “war” on these superbugs. (These “wars” on superbugs, cancer, and other diseases simply perpetuate the mindset that the most serious invaders attack from the outside.)

Which brings us back to the new CDC report on superbugs that I mentioned at the beginning of this Dispatch

How’s the war on superbugs going so far?

According to the new CDC report, about 36,000 people in the U.S. died from drug-resistant infections during 2017 compared to 44,000 in 2013. Which is an 18 percent decline.

The CDC credits the decline to intense efforts to control the spread of infections, particularly in hospitals.

But those numbers don’t quite add up…

For one, even though the total number of deaths seemed to decline between 2013 and 2017, the total number of superbug infections grew from 2.6 million to 2.8 million over that same time period.

Second, some public health officials argue the real number of annual superbug-related  deaths is probably much higher. They estimate that a staggering 153,000 people in the U.S. die each year with superbug infections. But those deaths weren’t included in the CDC report because the final cause of death was listed as something else—even if the superbug infection was the originating cause. (Like the opposite of what they are doing with coronavirus.)

Lastly, as I mentioned earlier, more and more people are contracting superbug infections outside hospital settings. In fact, superbugs are now even causing common urinary tract infections (UTIs).

In the past, UTIs went away using a standard antibiotic. But increasingly, those once-reliable, first-line drugs aren’t working. And young, healthy women with UTIs are now being hospitalized for in-patient treatments with heavy-duty antibiotics. In fact, one hospital in California experienced 1,000 drug-resistant UTIs during one year!

In an interview with U.S. News & World Report, Michael Kirsch, a pharmacist here in Tampa, Florida, recently put the new CDC numbers into perspective. He said “we are pushing back in a battle we are losing. I would not by any means declare success.”

Antibacterial agents fuel the fire

Now, you may think you need to constantly use “antibacterial” soap or hand sanitizer to combat all those nasty, antibiotic-resistant germs circulating around.

However, these agents actually contribute to the proliferation of dangerous, antibiotic-resistant superbugs! In fact, I started warning people about this problem over two decades ago. And I even told Gina Bari Kolata, a New York Times science writer I know personally about the problem back in 2001 during an interview!

Instead, I have always recommended simply washing your hands (and face), often, with regular, old soap and water. (If you don’t have access to soap, just use water. And if you don’t have access to soap or water, try saline solution.)

In addition, avoid hospitals (especially now, with the coronavirus pandemic still upon us). And, of course, avoid taking an antibiotic unless absolutely necessary to treat a life-threatening infection.

Last, focus on ways to boost your immune system to defend against any of these increasingly potent bugs. For all my current recommendations, check out my Pandemic Protection Playbook: How to become “immune ready” in every season. (To learn more about this essential guide, click here now!)


“US Superbug Infections Rising, But Deaths are Falling.” U.S. News & World Report, 11/13/19. (

“About Antibiotic Resistance.” Centers for Disease Control, 3/13/20. (