T here’s a silent epidemic slowly brewing around the globe. It hasn’t claimed as many lives as COVID-19, but if it gets out of control, it will likely prove even deadlier. It’s caused not by a single virus, but by a number of different bacterial species that have been slowly evolving defenses against our once potent antibiotics. Think of it as a sea slowly swelling with superbugs.
Currently, someone in America dies from an antibiotic-resistant bacteria or fungi every 15 minutes, adding up to 35,000 annual deaths. Globally, the United Nations reports that a mind-boggling 700,000 people a year die from infections antibiotics can no longer fight. The report warns that this number could reach 10 million by 2050 if we don’t find alternative therapies against our bacterial enemies.
How did we arrive at this existential threat to humanity? Whether we like it or not, that’s evolution in progress. In the 20th century, we invented powerful antibiotics that destroyed bacterial cells before they destroyed us. In response, the bugs evolved too. They learned to produce chemicals that deflect our antibiotics, so they can continue multiplying. We thought we could outpace bacterial evolution with our pharmaceutical prowess, but the germs beat us, bolstering their defenses. We can’t fight evolution.