Superbugs ​kill an estimated 700,000 people worldwide each year. A Duke University infectious disease specialist says one promising policy solution is the PASTEUR Act, a bipartisan bill advancing through Congress.

Imagine surviving a tough fight with COVID-19 only to find your weakened body attacked by a “superbug” contracted in the hospital. It’s a terrifying thought, but these days more and more patients face this situation.

A superbug is a microbe, such as a bacterium or fungus, that has evolved to resist drug treatments, causing incurable, sometimes deadly, infections. As a physician who specializes in infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance, I’ve seen too many superbug infections firsthand.

A new paper in Wednesday’s Lancet estimates that antibacterial resistance killed 1.27 million people worldwide in 2019. By 2050 it could be as high as 10 million, according to research by the U.K. government and Wellcome Trust. Although the highest burdens occur in low-resource countries, antimicrobial resistance is all too common in North Carolina and the U.S.

Alarmingly, we’re not doing enough to stop it. But with policy changes, we could slow this approaching pandemic before it engulfs us.

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