In January of 2017, the Centers for Disease Control published a chilling report. A Nevada woman was killed by a “superbug” bacteria, that is, a bacteria resistant to all 26 antibiotics available to patients in the United States.
Antibiotic resistance has been deemed an “urgent” threat from both the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization for over 15 years, and yet health innovations in this space have all but ground to a halt. According to Pew Research, there have been no new registered classes of antibiotics discovered since 1984. Over the course of 30 years, the antibiotics we have access to have been losing effectiveness as bacteria have become increasingly resistant to them.
Another report from Reuters indicates that antibiotic resistance is becoming a very real crisis for Americans. An estimated 37,000 Americans die every year from incidents involving antibiotic-resistant infections – and little is being done to save them. Reuters finds that “government agencies remain unwilling or unable to impose reporting requirements on a healthcare industry that often hides the problem.”
A total of 24 US states and Washington, DC don’t count or report deaths from seven of the most prevalent superbug infections or outbreaks. Further, hospitals are incentivized to keep this problem hidden. By acknowledging these infections, hospitals risk potential legal liability for the damage they cause.
So not only do doctors and officials not have the drugs to fight these bacteria, but they also don’t have enough information about where these infections occur either. Could antibiotic resistant bacteria reach global pandemic levels? According to the CDC, if current trends continue, resistant bacteria will kill 10 million people globally every year. That’s 2 million more than global cancer deaths in 2012.