Antibiotics and Superbugs

Could antibiotic-resistant "superbugs" become a bigger killer than cancer?

When antibiotics were first used in the 1940s they were a revolution in medicine. Before that, diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis were often a death sentence, and even an infected scratch could be fatal.

Since then, antibiotics have saved hundreds of millions of lives. But now many of these drugs are becoming ineffective.

Scientists say it's a problem of our own making. We've used antibiotics so freely, some bacteria have mutated into so-called "superbugs."

They've become resistant to the very drugs designed to kill them. A study commissioned by the British government estimates that by 2050, 10 million people worldwide could die each year from antibiotic resistant bacteria. That's more than currently die from cancer.

Each time we take an antibiotic, bacteria can develop the same kind of resistance in our bodies, which is why the overuse of the drugs is so dangerous.

Americans are among the highest consumers of antibiotics in the world. More than 250 million prescriptions are written every year. One-third of them unnecessary, according to the centers for disease control.

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