The medical system in encountering more and more drug-resistant disease pathogens, so-called "superbugs," and we're not developing new antibiotics anywhere near fast enough to fight them.
One major reason is the massive overuse of antibiotics, which are too often prescribed unnecessarily, for example for viral conditions such as colds. (Antibiotics have no effect at all on viruses; they require antivirals.)
Even worse, antibiotics are given routinely to livestock because for reasons that are not entirely clear they make animals grow faster. To add insult to injury, pharmaceutical companies sell antibiotics to farmers for a tiny fraction of the price charged to human consumers. Some food companies advertise that they don't use antibiotics, and their competitors have countered with ads falsely implying that the only thing wrong with antibiotics in livestock is antibiotic residue in the meat.
The report below aired earlier tonight on PBS NewsHour as the first of a series:
Other parts of this series:
- The antibiotic crisis is not getting any better
- The economics of new antibiotics
- Getting pharmaceutical companies to develop new antibiotics
- Farming and antibiotics overuse