With their ability to cure infections that in the past have proven lethal, antibiotics have transformed medicine. They are credited with saving millions from dying from bacterial infections and with making organ transplantation, stem cell transplants, and cancer chemotherapy possible because of their ability to protect weakened immune systems.
But through the natural evolution of bacteria, and through the misuse and overuse of antibiotics, the bugs the drugs have so efficiently fought off in the past are growing resistant to medicine — and that spells trouble for human health, researchers says.
Editor’s Note: 3 Secrets to Never Get Sick Again. Get Super Immunity for Only $4.95. Click here.
“We are quickly running out of therapies to treat some of these infections that previously had been eminently treatable,” Dr. Arjun Srinivasan, associate director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tells FRONTLINE. “There are bacteria that we encounter, particularly in health-care settings, that are resistant to nearly all — or, in some cases, all — the antibiotics that we have available to us, and we are thus entering an era that people have talked about for a long time.”
What’s more, few new antibiotics are in the development pipeline and insufficient monitoring of antibiotic overuse is being conducted by government agencies — two of the factors setting the stage for a major public health problem, he says.
“We’re here,” he says. “We’re in the post-antibiotic era. There are patients for whom we have no therapy, and we are literally in a position of having a patient in a bed who has an infection, something that five years ago even we could have treated, but now we can’t.”
To read Dr. Srinivasan’s full interview with FRONTLINE, click here.