Editor's note: Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY) is the only microbiologist in Congress and has been a leader on public health issues, particularly on the overuse of antibiotics on the farm. Dr. Robert S. Lawrence is professor of Environmental Health Sciences, Health Policy, and International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the founding director of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.
Strep throat should not kill you. Nor should a knee scratch that becomes infected.
For decades, the world has relied upon antibiotics to treat common infections. As bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics, these minor afflictions could soon become life-threatening.
Procedures that place patients at risk of infection, like hip replacements, dental work and open-heart surgery, could become far more dangerous.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in October that antibiotic-resistant bacteria - known as "superbugs" - cause at least two million infections and 23,000 deaths in the United States yearly. The cost to the U.S. health care system has been pegged at $17 billion to $26 billion annually.
In the almost four decades since the FDA acknowledged this problem, Congressional opposition and intense industry lobbying has blocked meaningful action - even as hundreds of scientific studies have confirmed the link between antibiotic misuse in food animals and superbug infections in humans.
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