After more than two years of COVID-19, no one wants to hear about another looming public health crisis.

Unfortunately, there’s one we need to talk about. But the good news is that we can see this one coming — and if we act quickly, we can still avoid the worst.

The superbug crisis is already with us. Another term for it is antimicrobial resistance — AMR — which arises when bacteria and fungi that cause disease become resistant to medicines used to treat them.

According to a new study in The Lancet, drug-resistant bacteria killed 1.27 million people worldwide in 2019. If the problem is left unchecked, the toll could grow to 10 million people annually by 2050. That would go far beyond the devastating impact of COVID-19, which has killed over 6 million people in two years. Moreover, superbugs could weaken our public health response to future pandemics and biosecurity threats.

As an infectious disease doctor and professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, I’m all too familiar with superbugs and how they impact patient care. More and more, I care for patients with drug-resistant urinary tract infections who have to be admitted to the hospital to receive an antibiotic intravenously, rather than taking pills at home. I also see patients who can’t receive potentially life-saving organ transplants because they have a drug-resistant infection.

To combat the deadly threat of AMR, we need a wide pipeline of new antibiotics. Unfortunately, the market forces that incentivize companies to develop new medicines don’t work well for antibiotics.

Read the full piece at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette here.