Someone must take up the fight against superbugs
As an element of the media, the PBS documentary show "Frontline" might be accused of sensationalism for calling a recent documentary "Hunting the Nightmare Bacteria" - except that the phrase "nightmare bacteria" was borrowed directly from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The film examined the rise of deadly bacteria that are impervious to known antibiotics, the ability of some of them to pass their antibiotic-fighting DNA to other strains of bacteria, and the withdrawal of much of the world's pharmaceutical industry from the marginally profitable business of antibiotic development.
According to the CDC, about 2 million people in the United States are infected each year by antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and about 23,000 die. The problem, according to the agency, will get exponentially worse as bacteria continue to evolve and erode antibiotics' effectiveness.
Meanwhile antibiotics research - which typically requires high levels of investment and years of development - has diminished as big pharmaceutical companies switch to medicines for chronic diseases. Patients who use antibiotics, after all, might take a two-week course, while those using cholesterol-reducing medicine or anti-diabetes drugs do so for a lifetime.
Otherwise, according to Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization, evolving superbugs again could render deadly such treatable diseases as strep throat, or even minor cuts.
The absence of the private industry means that the federal government must take up the effort in the name of public health, either through incentives to get the private industry back in the business or by directly funding the research.