Trust Magazine

The Growing Threat of Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

Where superbugs come from and what can be done to combat them

In this Issue:

  • Winter 2024
  • 2023: Looking Back on a Year of Milestones
  • How States Manage Their Budgets
  • Indigenous Leaders Protects Canada's Boreal Forest
  • Evidence-Based Solutions Led to Milestones in 2023
  • The Beauty of Chilean Patagonia
  • Bridging Divides: A Call for Stronger Leadership
  • U.S. Women Make Gains in Highest-Paying Occupations
  • Utah Leads the Way on Wildlife Crossings
  • Philadelphia's Wage Tax Has Little Impact for Residents
  • America's New Tipping Culture
  • A Roadmap for Managing Wildfire Costs
  • Navigating the U.S. Political Landscape
  • 5 Facts About Hispanic Americans and Health Care
  • Debt Collection Cases Dominate Civil Dockets
  • The Human Impact of Solving Plastic Pollution
  • It's Time to Fix Housing in America
  • Return on Investment
  • The Growing Threat of Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria
  • View All Other Issues
The Growing Threat of Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

Common bacteria, such as those that cause urinary tract infections and sexually transmitted infections, are becoming increasingly difficult to treat. Without effective antibiotics, even simple infections could become deadly, making medical procedures like surgery, chemotherapy, and dialysis too dangerous.

2.8 Million Antibiotic-Resistant Infections Occur in the U.S. Each Year.

More than 35,000 people die as a result.

What is driving the rise in multidrug-resistant superbugs? 

The more antibiotics are used, the less effective they become. Unnecessary and inappropriate use accelerates that process.

1 in 3

antibiotic prescriptions written in doctors’ offices, emergency rooms, and hospital-based clinics are unnecessary—this equals about 47 million prescriptions each year.


Only about half of patients treated with antibiotics for common infections received the recommended antibiotic based on established prescribing guidelines.

The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the superbug threat.

Early in the pandemic, antibiotics were often given to patients even though these drugs do not effectively treat viral illnesses.


increase in infections and deaths from drug-resistant bacteria in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic across the U.S.

What can be done to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria?

Eliminate inappropriate use of these lifesaving drugs and address the complex economic barriers hindering the development of new treatment options for patients.

Together, these efforts will help save antibiotics and protect the health of patients today and for generations to come.

This article was previously published on and appears in this issue of Trust Magazine.

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Superbugs: A Global Health Threat

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Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are multiplying. To stop them, we must preserve the drugs we have—and find new antibiotics now. Mary Millard lives with an antibiotic-resistant infection, caused by bacteria known as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, that she acquired during heart surgery in 2014.

Shot of a doctor examining a woman’s throat during a consultation
Shot of a doctor examining a woman’s throat during a consultation
Fact Sheet

Inappropriate Antibiotic Prescribing Comes With Risks

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Fact Sheet

A new study from Washington University in St. Louis and The Pew Charitable Trusts analyzing private health insurance claims data found that inappropriate antibiotic prescribing among adults diagnosed with common outpatient upper respiratory infections resulted in close to $69 million in excess health care costs in the U.S. in 2017 ($49.6 million for pharyngitis, and $19.1 million for sinus infection).

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Data and the scientific method aren’t just for the laboratory; they inform social science that leads to better public policy.

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What Is Antibiotic Resistance—and How Can We Fight It?

Sign up for our four-week email series The Race Against Resistance.

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Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as “superbugs,” are a major threat to modern medicine. But how does resistance work, and what can we do to slow the spread? Read personal stories, expert accounts, and more for the answers to those questions in our four-week email series: Slowing Superbugs.

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