ResistanceMap – an online tool for visualizing antibiotic resistance from CDDEP’s Extending the Cure project – launches a second edition today with more bacteria-antibiotic combinations, U.S.-Canada-Europe comparisons of resistance trends, and lots of opportunities to interact with the data.  Read the press release below, and take a look at some initial coverage on The Scientist and the Washington Post’s Checkup Blog.

September 21, 2011

United States Falling Behind In Efforts to Control Superbug Threat

Online Web Tool ResistanceMap shows latest regional and global trends in antibiotic resistance

Washington, D.C.–The United States lags behind many Western European nations in controlling the spread of certain drug-resistant microbes or superbugs, according to ResistanceMap, an interactive web-based tool that tracks drug resistance in North America and Europe.

The latest iteration of ResistanceMap was launched today by Extending the Cure, a Washington, D.C.-based research project that studies the growing problem of antibiotic resistance. The maps offer a comprehensive way to visualize global antibiotic resistance trends and identify top-performing countries and U.S. regions as well as those where antibiotic resistant infections are severe. Such infections can result in long hospital stays and high treatment costs if they can be treated at all.

The global maps show that despite significant gains in limiting the spread of hospital acquired Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), the United States still has one of the highest MRSA rates in the Northern Hemisphere putting it far behind other developed European countries. Nearly 52 percent of reported Staph samples in the United States are resistant to treatment with methicillin, penicillin and closely related antibiotics, compared to just 1 percent in Sweden.

With this tool, public health officials, researchers, and others can see the progression of antibiotic resistance in the United States and worldwide, said Ramanan Laxminarayan, Ph.D., director of Extending the Cure. By mapping the geography of resistance, we can better identify regions at risk for outbreaks, he said. In addition, this map allows us to look for solutions and pinpoint regions of the world where infection control practices have been particularly successful.

Other global trends include the new finding that the United States, together with Ireland, has the highest reported rate of the lethal and resistant microbe Vancomycin-resistant enterococcus (VRE). VRE infections are often passed from one hospital patient to another when health care workers fail to follow standard hygiene precautions, such as hand-washing. According to the data in the online maps, over 20 percent of infections caused by VRE bacteria in the United States are resistant to vancomycin, a drug of last resort, compared to less than 5 percent in Canada and most of Western Europe.

ResistanceMap was developed by Extending the Cure and funded in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation s Pioneer Portfolio, which supports innovative projects with the potential to transform health and health care and accelerate change, leading to significant improvements in people s lives. The online tool was recently redesigned to enable researchers and policymakers, for the first time, to make interactive side-by-side comparisons of the latest resistance data from the United States, Canada and Europe. Users can also embed the interactive animations on their blog or website.

State and Regional Trends at a Glance

In addition to global comparisons, these maps focus on the United States, telling the story of resistant microbes as they have evolved over the last decade across the entire nation and within census divisions and states.

Key findings include:

Two of the most common disease-causing bacteria — Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae — are rapidly gaining resistance to common antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin, or cipro. Last year more than 6 percent of K. pneumoniae samples were multi-drug resistant, and over a third of those did not respond to carbapenems, powerful antibiotics indicated for last-resort use. When standard antibiotics no longer work, physicians must experiment with combinations of antibiotics–often older drugs that have been shelved because they can trigger serious side effects such as permanent kidney damage.

An increasing proportion of infections caused by Acinetobacter baumannii, a micro-organism known for causing deadly wound infections in soldiers returning home from Iraq, are also failing to respond to multiple drugs. In 1999, 30 percent of A. baumannii samples were simultaneously resistant to three different kinds of antibiotics. By 2010, that percentage had climbed to over 50 percent, with rates exceeding 70 percent in parts of the upper Midwest.

The South as a region had higher rates of resistance compared to the West or Northeastern United States. For example, by the end of the last decade nearly 70 percent of staph infections in parts of the Southeast were resistant to methicillin and other related drugs compared to 40 percent in New England.

Policymakers, researchers and healthcare workers can use the maps to identify regions in the country or the world that might need greater coordination and tighter infection control. The information in the maps will also be useful in finding best practices to curtail the spread of emerging superbugs.


Extending the Cure is a research and consultative effort that examines policy solutions to address the growing problem of antibiotic resistance. The project is based at the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy (CDDEP) in Washington, DC. To find out more, go to

As the nation s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful, and timely change. The Foundation s Pioneer Portfolio supports innovative ideas and projects that may lead to important breakthroughs in health and health care. For more information, visit