In the calm before the superbug storm, the world needs to prepare

Covid-19 has demonstrated the catastrophic result of a virus catching the world unprepared. But over human history, bacteria have been our most dangerous foe. So it doesn’t make sense to me that the Biden administration recently released a pandemic preparedness plan that mentions the threat of antimicrobial resistance just once, and then only in passing.

This omission is ominous. Drug-resistant “superbugs” sicken nearly 3 million Americans each year and kill 35,000. Some experts estimate the real toll is much higher, with up to 162,000 Americans dying each year from antimicrobial resistance. An influential report commissioned by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the Wellcome Trust estimated this scourge could kill as many as 10 million people each year around the globe…

Despite this grim news, we’re in the calm before the superbug storm. Because infections are evolving faster than scientists can invent new treatments, cases and deaths are expected to rise in the years ahead. The World Health Organization considers antimicrobial resistance to be a major global threat that will weaken, kill, and send millions of people into extreme poverty within this decade.

This storm is not a theoretical possibility. It will make landfall. How much damage it will do depends on whether our leaders recognize the danger and prepare for success.