Superbug Threat

June 15, 2018 • Volume 28, Issue 22
Will antibiotics continue to work?
By Bara Vaida


Student Jacob Hatch walks with his father, Bryant (Cover: AP Photos/The Deseret News/Jeffrey D. Allred)
Student Jacob Hatch walks with his father, Bryant, on the Brigham Young University campus in Provo, Utah. Bryant Hatch's leg was amputated after he contracted methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a bacteria widespread in U.S. hospitals. An estimated 23,000 Americans a year die from bacterial infections that antibiotics cannot cure. (Cover: AP Photos/The Deseret News/Jeffrey D. Allred)

Public health experts warn of a growing menace: the spread of bacterial infections that antibiotics are powerless to cure. Such infections, caused by pathogens known as superbugs, kill an estimated 700,000 people per year around the world, 23,000 of them Americans. In the United States alone, fighting superbugs consumes up to $20 billion in health care costs annually, a recent study found. Because humans and livestock consume so many antibiotics — billions of doses a day — many bacteria are becoming resistant to the drugs. Some doctors prescribe antibiotics indiscriminately, and countries such as India allow over-the-counter sales of the drugs. Making matters worse, pharmaceutical companies are not producing enough new antibiotics to replace those that are no longer effective. Some experts hope heightened awareness of the superbug threat, along with better diagnostic tools, will contain the problem, but others say governments must act more quickly to reduce antibiotic consumption. Meanwhile, researchers are seeking alternatives to antibiotics, such as using the immune system to quell infections.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Dec. 02, 2022  Long COVID
Oct. 29, 2021  COVID-19 Vaccines
Jan. 08, 2021  Health and Society
Nov. 20, 2020  The Public Health System
Jul. 17, 2020  The Pandemic Economy
Jun. 26, 2020  Zoonotic Diseases
May 08, 2020  CTE and Athletes
Jan. 24, 2020  Conquering Rare Diseases
Sep. 13, 2019  Measles Resurgence
Nov. 30, 2018  Obesity Crisis
Jun. 15, 2018  Superbug Threat
Jun. 02, 2017  Pandemic Threat
Jul. 22, 2016  Mosquito-Borne Disease
Feb. 13, 2015  Emerging Infectious Diseases
Nov. 08, 2013  Lyme Disease
Jan. 06, 2012  Preventing Disease
Apr. 02, 2010  Breast Cancer
Sep. 12, 2008  Heart Health
Aug. 24, 2007  Fighting Superbugs
Jan. 13, 2006  Avian Flu Threat
Jun. 20, 2003  Fighting SARS
Apr. 05, 2002  Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Mar. 09, 2001  Diabetes Epidemic
Mar. 02, 2001  Mad Cow Disease
Dec. 24, 1999  Asthma Epidemic
Aug. 05, 1983  Multiple Sclerosis
May 27, 1983  Chronic Pain: The Hidden Epidemic
Sep. 24, 1976  Influenza Control
Sep. 16, 1970  Virus Research
Mar. 14, 1956  Progress Against Polio
May 25, 1955  Degenerative Diseases
May 25, 1949  Chronic Disease
Mar. 01, 1924  The Foot and Mouth Disease
Biology and Life Sciences
Consumer Protection and Product Liability
Humanitarian Assistance
Infectious Diseases
Medical Devices and Technology
Medical Research and Advocacy