New report on deaths from drug resistant bacteria stresses urgency

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WASHINGTON — A new report released Wednesday in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet estimates that antibiotic resistant infections killed at least 1.27 million people globally in 2019. That’s significantly higher than previous estimates of 700,000 deaths annually, and likely a much more accurate picture of the devastating impact attributable to antibiotics losing their effectiveness.

In response to the report, PIRG’s Public Health Campaigns Director Matt Wellington released the following statement: 

“Public health experts are focused on tackling COVID-19’s Omicron variant right now, and rightly so. But we can’t forget about a looming pandemic: This Lancet report shows that antibiotic resistance is an urgent, health threat that’s already killing at least a million people in a year — and will worsen if we don’t do something about it. We can slow antibiotic resistance down, as long as global leaders act now.

“One of the largest factors contributing to antibiotic resistance is overuse of the drugs. That’s why we need a multi-stakeholder push to stop misusing our life-saving medicines in any setting, whether it’s human healthcare or food animal production. 

“Nearly two-thirds of the medically important antibiotics sold in the United States go to meat production, so that agriculture sector should be a priority. Unfortunately, the latest data shows that efforts to reduce the use of medically important antibiotics on farms have largely stalled. 

“The incoming FDA Commissioner should move quickly to eliminate the common, unnecessary use of medically important antibiotics on farms, and reserve the drugs to treat sick animals.”

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