The CDC has released a first-of-its-kind report detailing the threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria to our health and food supply. It is not pretty.
Within the report (you can read it here, it’s very layman-accessible) lies threat assessments for a whole range of disease-causing microbes, from famous foes like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) to lesser-known dangers like Clostridium dificile and drug-resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae (yes, that last one does exactly what you think it does).
Thousands of people are killed by such infections every year. They inflict billions of dollars of medical costs and lost wages. The drug-development pipeline for new antibiotics is almost empty. New tools like fecal transplants and phage therapy are hopeful but still experimental, and at least a decade away. So what do we do?
The CDC calls for safer use of antibiotics, both in hospitals and on farms, and increased screening and vaccination efforts. CDC director Tom Frieden put it plainly:
"If we are not careful, we will soon be in a post-antibiotic era."
Unless we do something to reverse this trend, and fast, it’s high time to tuck your head between your knees. We’re either on a plane that’s going down, or we’re about to get paddled. The choice of metaphors is yours.
It’s important that people are educated on the grave nature of this threat, because it is very serious. Make sure your doctors are informed and are prescribing antibiotics correctly, hold your elected officials accountable for safer food and farm policies … and for the budding biologists out there, we’ve got plenty of new problems for you to solve. We’re gonna need your help.