Nightmare Bacteria: Life Without Antibiotics
An interactive production on the consequences of the overuse and misuse of antibiotics
Nightmare Bacteria: Life Without Antibiotics is an interactive multimedia project of the Investigative Reporting Workshop (IRW) at the American University School of Communication. I produced it with Robin Mudge.
This interactive production was made possible by a grant from the National Institute of Health Care Management (NIHCM) Foundation.
The production builds on two FRONTLINE/IRW documentary films: Hunting the Nightmare Bacteria and The Trouble with Antibiotics, produced by the FRONTLINE team at American University.
The goal of the project is to engage and inform a wide audience about the overuse of antibiotics and its consequences.
This site showcases edited chapters of the two PBS programs. It features stories of people and hospitals struggling with superbugs. It covers the decline in research among pharmaceutical companies and the use of antibiotics in food animal farming.
Additional material includes interviews with leading public health experts and explanations of the science of antibiotics.
Recently launched initiatives promise some solutions, including the investment by governments in developing new antibiotics, efforts to more quickly detect and identify resistant bacteria, and food industry decisions to use meat grown without antibiotics.
A study commissioned by the U.K. government predicts that antibiotic-resistant infections will overtake cancer as the leading cause of death by 2050. In the U.S., over 2 million people get sick and 23,000 die from these types of infections.
The United Nations warns that the United States and the rest of the world are on the road back to the days of people dying from common infections and injuries. The World Bank estimates the global Gross Domestic Product could fall by $100 trillion as a result.
The head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) used the phrase “nightmare bacteria” to bring attention to the urgency of the problem. The CDC foresees a pre-penicillin future unless there is significant reduction in overuse and misuse in human medicine and food animal farming.
A study by Pew and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates 47 million unnecessary prescriptions for antibiotics are written in the U.S. each year. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued guidelines to reduce the use of antibiotics important in human medicine for food animal farming.
In ADDIE’S STORY, an 11-year old girl attacked by the staph infection MRSA needs a lung transplant. “How did she get so sick? How did it happen so fast?” – Addie’s mom.
In HOSPITAL OUTBREAKS, the National Institutes of Health and Texas Medical Center battle deadly bacteria. “No matter what we did…it was still spreading.” – NIH intensive care nurse