LIFE IN A POST-ANTIBIOTIC WORLD: Deadly, Drug-Resistant ‘Superbugs’ Pose Huge Threat, W.H.O. Says.
The World Health Organization warned on Monday that a dozen antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” pose an enormous threat to human health, and urged hospital infection-control experts and pharmaceutical researchers to focus on fighting the most dangerous pathogens first.
The rate at which new strains of drug-resistant bacteria have emerged in recent years — prompted by overuse of antibiotics in humans and livestock — terrifies public health experts. Many consider the new strains just as dangerous as emerging viruses like Zika or Ebola.
“We are fast running out of treatment options,” said Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, the W.H.O. assistant director general who released the list. “If we leave it to market forces alone, the new antibiotics we most urgently need are not going to be developed in time.”
Britain’s chief medical officer, Sally C. Davies, has described drug-resistant pathogens as a national security threat equivalent to terrorism, and Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the recently retired director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called them “one of our most serious health threats.”
Last week, the European Food Safety Authority and European Center for Disease Prevention and Control estimated that superbugs kill 25,000 Europeans each year; the C.D.C. has estimated that they kill at least 23,000 Americans a year. (For comparison, about 38,000 Americans die in car crashes yearly.)
This is a problem.