Journalists should check in on how the U.S. government and the nation’s hospitals and medical practices intend to regain ground lost during the pandemic in the battle against superbugs. These pathogens have evolved to resist most existing antimicrobial medications, like antibiotics and antifungals.
The threat of antibiotic resistance continues to grow in 2022. Reporters looking for new angles on how to cover this brewing danger can look to efforts by public health advocates, drug company leaders and federal legislators, who are pushing for federal policies that encourage the development of new antibiotics. Their efforts come as two recent reports demonstrate that another potential global infectious disease crisis is percolating.
One January 2022 report concluded that 1.2 million deaths globally were the result of drug resistance in 2019 — higher than previously understood. Another showed that the pipeline of new antibiotics to replace those that no longer work remains dangerously thin and likely won’t expand unless the federal government steps in like it did during COVID-19 with vaccines.
“Among the many sobering reminders of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the critical importance of public health preparedness,” Kathy Talkington, director of health programs at Pew Charitable Trusts, wrote in a Feb. 3 letter to a U.S. Senate committee in support of legislation to spur the development of new antibiotics. “While we were not aware of COVID-19 before its emergence, experts have been warning for decades about the threat of antibiotic resistance … Yet, their value to health care has been taken for granted; all the while, their effectiveness gradually diminishes.”
The CDC estimated in 2019 that about 35,000 people a year in the U.S. die from a drug-resistant infection, which is up from 2013 when the agency estimated about 21,000 were dying annually from a superbug. This is the latest national data available from the CDC.
If you are looking for an undercovered story during this pandemic, take a look at the continued threat of antibiotic-resistant pathogens.
There isn’t a lot of data out there, but scientists are watching for signs that COVID-19 patients are being overtreated with antibiotics, which could lead to a surge in super bugs – the term for bacteria and fungus that are resistant to most, if not all, antibiotics.
Across America, dentists write about 10% of all antibiotic prescriptions, data show, making them the top specialty prescribers of antibiotics in the U.S. one recent year.
But do the benefits of all these prescriptions outweigh their potential for harm? Amid concerns about antibiotic resistance – and the spread of Clostridioides difficile, a bacterium that causes antibiotic-associated colitis – researchers are saying “no.” Continue reading
Since the dawn of antibiotics, there has been antibiotic resistance. Until about 20 years ago, this threat remained muted because there were plenty of new antibiotics in the pipeline to replace those that had stopped working.
Today, there are fewer than 50 antimicrobials in the pipeline, according to Pew Charitable Trusts. Resistant bacteria, meanwhile, are slowly but surely spreading across the planet. If nothing changes, British think tank the Wellcome Trust, estimates that 10 million people will die annually from a resistant microbe by 2050. Continue reading