ATLANTA (AP) — For the first time, the government is estimating how many people die from drug-resistant bacteria each year – more than 23,000, or about as many as those killed annually by flu.


The figure was released on Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to spotlight the growing threat of germs that are hard to treat because they’ve become resistant to drugs.


Antibiotics like penicillin and streptomycin first became widely available in the 1940s, and today dozens are used to kill or suppress the bacteria behind illnesses ranging from strep throat to the plague. The drugs are considered one of the greatest advances in the history of medicine, and have saved countless lives.


But as decades passed, some antibiotics stopped working against the bugs they previously vanquished. Experts say their overuse and misuse have helped make them less effective.


In a new report, the CDC tallied the toll of the 17 most worrisome drug-resistant bacteria. The result: Each year, more than 2 million people develop serious infections and at least 23,000 die.


Report: Drug-resistant bacteria are common killers