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Every major disease-causing bacterium now has strands resistant to at least 1 of the roughly 160 antibiotics in use. (Miller, 2004) Doctors tier antibiotics for this reason, starting off with common stage 1 drugs, then if those don’t work, progressing to stage 2 antibiotics, then stage 3, and so forth. Each new stage consists of more powerful (and less-frequently used) antibiotics. Unfortunately, there are now some pathogens that have developed immunity to all known antibiotics, leaving doctors unable to treat a patient’s infection.

The number of antibiotic resistant strains in circulation is increasing by the year, and with it, an increase in serious illness and death. Drug-resistant bacteria and fungi now result in around 3.1 million infections per year in the United States alone, leading to approximately 48,700 deaths. (McKay, 2019) This amounts to an infection every 11 seconds, and a death every 15 minutes – more than 20-times the number of people killed on 9/11. Worldwide, antibiotic resistant infections kill at least 700,000 people globally each year, and this number is expected to increase as much as tenfold in the coming decades. (Abbott, 2019)

The most dangerous types of antibiotic resistant infections

In the United States, most of the deaths can be attributed to a handful of infections. Here’s a breakdown of the estimated annual deaths from resistant infections:

1. C. difficile: 12,800

2. Staph: 10,600

3. ESBL-producing enterobacteriaceae: 9,100

4. Enterococcus: 5,400

5. Streptococcus pneumoniae: 3,600

(McKay, 2019)

Many doctors report using antibiotics to save their patient from one infection, “only to see them go home and develop a crippling and sometimes fatal case of clostridium difficile. ‘C.diff.,’ as it’s known, is an intestinal infection with chronic diarrhea, and incidence in the United States has more than doubled since 2000.” (Coniff, 2013, p. 46)

The most recent projections from the World Health Organization suggest deaths from resistant “superbugs” will rise from roughly 700,000 a year in 2020 to nearly 10 million a year by 2050, roughly a 15-fold increase. “Our nation must stop referring to a coming post-antibiotic era,” says CDC director Robert Redfield, “It’s already here.” (McKay, 2019)

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