Next Steps to Thwart 'Superbugs'

Publication: The Chicago Tribune

Author: Rebecca W. Rimel


07/01/2012 - An old saying goes, you don't miss your water till your well runs dry. When it comes to antibiotics, we're not only running out of water but there are no rain clouds on the horizon. The overuse and underdevelopment of these drugs have brought us close to the brink of a world without cures for deadly infections. Fortunately, regulators, lawmakers, businesses and health professionals are taking steps to walk us back from the edge. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently took action to curb the use of antibiotics to promote growth in food animals...

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Yet even if agricultural misuse of antibiotics ended tomorrow, our proverbial well would still run dry, just more slowly. The next challenge is for the world's best and brightest — in business, medicine, government, and academia — to replenish our medicine chests with the next generation of antibiotics.

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Some progress is afoot: Congress just passed legislation that will extend market protections for qualifying antibiotics. Defense and federal health agencies are funding dual-purpose research to develop antibiotics against bioweapons and natural infectious diseases. The FDA's work with the drug industry to create a clearer, more predictable and feasible regulatory pathway for their approval is encouraging. 

Bacteria are genetically nimble, but humans are smarter. Not only can we develop better ways to produce meat and poultry without abusing antibiotics, we can and must marshal our resources to develop new drugs that will keep humanity ahead of the next generations of life-threatening superbugs.

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Rebecca W. Rimel is president and chief executive officer of The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Read the full editorial, Next Steps to Thwart 'Superbugs', on the Chicago Tribune's website.

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