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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Colorado Researcher Explains How the Misuse of Antibiotics Has Threatened Communities Around the Globe

Dr. Douglas Fish, affiliated faculty member in the Center for Global Health at Colorado School of Public Health: University of Colorado and chair of clinical pharmacy at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. He has made antimicrobial resistance (AMR) a major focus of his clinical research. Dr. Fish first became interested in AMR many years ago during his Fellowship in Infectious Diseases at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  As he put it, “As soon as you start thinking about antibiotics, you have to start thinking about resistance,” and since then Dr. Fish has been thinking of ways to address the spread of superbugs.

[Photo: Close-up detail of an agar plate of Klebsiella pneumoniae on a laboratory tabletop, with multiple petri dishes in the background as an arc. Microbiology and medicine concept.]

Superbugs pose a tremendous threat to human health. As more and more bacteria become resistant to our existing arsenal of antibiotics, the infections they cause become harder and harder to treat, in some cases rendering a simple bacterial infection deadly. Among these are methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, and tuberculosis.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 2 million people are infected with antibiotic resistant bacteria and 23,000 of them die annually in the United States alone with an additional 50,000 being killed globally. The threat can be even more extreme in areas with limited access to medical resources. Some models suggest that if we fail to curtail the increase of antibiotic resistant bacteria, superbugs will kill around 10 million people per year worldwide by the year 2050, surpassing the death toll of cancer. While it is hard to predict how this frightening trend will actually proceed, it is clear that we need to take action now to quell the rise of untreatable bacterial infections.

“The most important thing we can do is to limit the use of antibiotics in every arena,” says Dr. Fish.  “What is one of the best ways to reduce antibiotic use? Prevent people from getting infected in the first place.”

Read what Dr. Fish offers as insights on the global rise of antimicrobial resistance, and more importantly, what can be done to combat it, in the ColoradoSPH newsroom.