Bacteria that develop a resistance to antibiotics are a public health challenge to the world.

The next health care crisis is already here. The United States is not ready for it. And as a result, the entire world is vulnerable.

Those are the stark facts of mankind’s fight against antibiotic-resistant diseases or “superbugs.” I serve on the CDC’s Board of Scientific Counselors and co-lead Antimicrobial Stewardship Programs at University of Utah Health and the Salt Lake City Veterans Affairs Healthcare System. In my opinion, the war on superbugs is one of the most pressing public health challenges of our generation.

Superbugs are bacteria that used to be treatable by antibiotics but aren’t anymore.

Unlike most diseases, these infections are not static targets. They do not simply present themselves and wait passively for medical science to develop a cure.

Over time, antibiotic-resistant diseases adapt. The very medicines that defeat them today cause them to reemerge stronger tomorrow.

According to the latest estimate, superbugs killed nearly 1.3 million people globally in 2019. Older Americans are disproportionately impacted. New research from the University of Utah, Pew Charitable Trusts, and Infectious Diseases Society of America found that seniors — just 15% of the U.S. population — make up 40% of deaths from antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections.

Superbugs come in many forms, including variants of common bacteria like streptococcus. The CDC has a “watch list” of more which could soon evolve beyond the reach of medical science.

The fight against AMR infections — a fight, frankly, we are losing — faces two huge obstacles.

Read the full Salt Lake Tribune piece here.