Closer coordination between healthcare facilities and public health departments could save 37,000 U.S. lives over five years by preventing infections from antibiotic-resistant germs and from a nasty intestinal bug called C. difficile, according to a government report released on Tuesday.

Germs that no longer respond to antibiotics cause more than 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths each year in the United States, according to the report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Such superbugs typically arise when antibiotics are overprescribed.

Spores from C. difficile bacteria, which spread readily in hospitals and nursing homes and cause severe diarrhea, account for almost another 500,000 illnesses and 15,000 deaths annually. Rigorous cleaning of rooms with bleach can kill the spores, and hand-washing can also help prevent their spread.

C. difficile and drug-resistant bacteria, including carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteria (CRE) and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), spread inside health care facilities when infection control measures are inadequate and notably when patients move from one facility to another, the CDC said.

The report said 619,000 antibiotic-resistant and C. difficile infections and 37,000 deaths could be averted over five years if there was better control, or stewardship, of antibiotic use and tighter coordination between health departments and health care facilities.

That could take the form of health agencies notifying hospitals and nursing homes of drug-resistant germ outbreaks in the community and the threat of germs coming from other facilities. Likewise, health care facilities and health departments should agree to implement shared infection control actions, the CDC said.

"Facilities that work alone cannot adequately protect their patients," CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a conference call with reporters. "Tens of thousands of deaths can be prevented" with tighter coordination.

For instance, he said a hospital transporting an infected patient to another hospital or nursing home could alert the receiving facility. Then, the arriving patient could be isolated and receiving staff could wear protective gowns and gloves to prevent spread of infection.

In addition, once a hospital is known to have an exceptional number of patients infected with C. diff or drug-resistant bacteria, diagnostic tests could be used to determine whether other patients there are asymptomatic carriers.

Based on available research data, the CDC estimated that tighter coordination could slash infections with CRE as much as 80 percent in a given area over five years.