I hope you never have this experience: a loved one is hospitalized. Her doctors tell you her infection is resistant to antibiotics. She dies. More than 60,000 American families go through that experience each year — and the number is almost certain to rise.
Multidrug-resistant organisms are showing up in top-flight hospitals — like the klebsiella found in the National Institutes of Health’s Clinical Center this year, which may have led to the deaths of seven patients. Even infections that used to be a breeze to treat, like gonorrhea, are becoming incurable.
What makes the rapid loss of antibiotics to drug resistance particularly alarming is that we are failing to make new ones. We are emptying our medicine chest of the most important class of medicines we ever had. And the cause can be traced, for the most part, to two profound problems.
The first is economic.
The second challenge stems from the nature of bacteria.
Merge these two problems — scientific and economic — and the result is a drug-development disaster: the prospects are so discouraging that few companies bother to try anymore.
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