The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has published a disturbing new report on antibiotic resistance, the first since its benchmark survey in 2013. Antibiotic resistance is the tendency of pathogens — bacteria and fungi — to fight back against antibiotic drugs, making some infections harder to treat, or untreatable altogether, one of the most severe public health threats in the world today. The CDC’s report offers a glimmer of hope that resistance can be slowed, but it also shows how the dangers are deepening and changing, including with a new pathogen that wasn’t even on the radar screen six years ago.
Antibiotics, the miracle drugs invented in the mid-20th century, have made possible a revolution in modern medicine — for example, enabling organ transplants — and have spared countless individuals from death and illness. When bacteria became resistant in the early years, new antibiotics were readily created. But more recently, the pipeline of antibiotic development has slowed, and patients are again confronting untreatable illnesses.