COVID-19 isn’t the only infectious disease that’s killing Americans by the tens of thousands.

Antibiotic-resistant fungi and bacteria known as “superbugs” claim about 162,000 American lives annually. And the death toll is expected to soar in the years ahead, as these microbes evolve to resist our most potent medicines. Fortunately, there’s still time for the new Biden administration to avert a worst-case scenario — but officials must act quickly to accelerate the creation of new and better treatments.

When bacteria are exposed to antibiotics, most die. But some of those microbes survive and mutate. Occasionally, those mutations make the bacteria immune to the original drug. This dangerous evolution, known as antimicrobial resistance or AMR, is a global health emergency of alarming proportions. The United Nations warns that superbugs may kill 10 million people annually by 2050 if better treatments aren’t invented.

If superbugs become immune to our last remaining treatments, common medical procedures and treatments that carry a risk of infection, such as caesarian sections, joint-replacement surgeries and even the treatments that arose from President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot project, could become life-threatening. Even a minor cut could prove untreatable — and thus fatal.

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