Reading a recent issue of Public Citizen's excellent Health Letter titled "Know When Antibiotics Work," I recalled the recent tragic loss of a healthy history professor who was rushed to a fine urban hospital, with a leading infectious disease specialist by his side. No antibiotics could treat his mysterious "superbug." He died in 36 hours.
Wrongful or overuse of antibiotics has a perverse effect-causing the kinds of bacteria that these drugs can no longer destroy. The World Health Organization has cited antibiotic resistance as one of the three most serious public health threats of the 21st century.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that just in hospitals, where between 5 and 10 percent of all patients develop an infection, about 90,000 of these patients die each year as a result of their infection. This toll is up from 13,300 patient deaths in 1992. Some percentage of these people have problems because of antibiotic resistance.
No matter how many national and global public health organizations warn about this silent, deadly epidemic, no matter how many official recognitions and definition of the problems and demands for local and international action, the fatality toll and the economic costs keep growing.