Averting a Potential Post-Antibiotic Era (Institute of Medicine Manuscript)

  • September 07, 2010
  • By Shelley Hearne

Shelley Hearne, managing director of the Pew Health Group, contributed the following manuscript to an April workshop held by Institute of Medicine's Forum on Microbial Threats. The introduction, and a link to the full summary of the workshop, follow below.


Antibiotics save untold numbers of human lives every day. Modern medicine depends on our ability to treat and prevent infections. Yet a global crisis looms. Drug-resistant bacteria are spreading in our hospitals, our communities, and on our farms. Resistance is fueled by injudicious use of existing drugs and compounded by a failure to invest adequately in the development of new ones.

Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has warned that we may be on the brink of “a post-antibiotic era” (Frieden, 2010). To prevent this warning from becoming an accurate prediction, we need to embrace what we already know from the science and heed the decades-long call to action by our leading health authorities and institutions, including the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Several piecemeal legislative proposals exist that could address portions of the problem. But only a comprehensive policy framework designed to both preserve the efficacy of existing antibiotics and spur innovation of new drugs will provide a sustainable solution.


Read the full manuscript: Averting a Potential Post-Antibiotic Era on page 197 of the workshop summary "Antibiotic Resistance: Implications for Global Health and Novel Intervention Strategies" on the Institute of Medicine's Web site.