Antibiotics have saved hundreds of millions of lives.
But their continued, widespread use has led to mutated bacteria that are resistant to these drugs
| 60 MINUTES – When antibiotics were first used in the 1940s they were a revolution in medicine.
Before that, diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis were often a death sentence, and even an infected scratch could be fatal. Since then, antibiotics have saved hundreds of millions of lives.
But now many of these drugs are becoming ineffective.
Scientists say it’s a problem of our own making. We’ve used antibiotics so freely, some bacteria have mutated into so-called “superbugs.”
They’ve become resistant to the very drugs designed to kill them.
A study commissioned by the British government estimates that by 2050, 10 million people worldwide could die each year from antibiotic resistant bacteria. That’s more than currently die from cancer.
To understand the danger posed by superbugs, we start with the story of David Ricci.
In 2011, at the age of 19, David Ricci volunteered to teach orphans in Kolkata, India. His walk to work ran alongside these train tracks.
David Ricci: I remember the trains, when they would pass by, were just really close to you. And had caught my sleeve and threw me in front of it.
Holly Williams: How far were you dragged for?
David Ricci: Probably about 50 meters.
Holly Williams: And was the pain immediate?
David Ricci: My leg was pinned between two of the wheels as soon as I tried to stand up and realized that, you know, my leg was like hamburger.
Ricci survived the amputation of his leg and a medical evacuation home to Seattle, only for his doctors to discover a microscopic organism that could kill him.
David Ricci: My doctor said: “David, I need to tell you something really hard. You have an infection we’ve never seen before … ” Read more.
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