While antibiotics were once hailed as miracle drugs, they've been abused and overused so much that they are now often powerless against fast-evolving bacteria. That bacterial evolution is far outpacing humans’ ability to research and develop new drugs effective enough to fight those infection-causing “superbugs,” NBC News reports.
"If antibiotics were telephones, we would still be calling each other using clunky rotary dials and copper lines," said Stefano Bertuzzi, CEO of the American Society for Microbiology.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in the U.S. alone, more than two million people are infected by drug-resistant germs each year, and 23,000 die of their infections. Globally, the death toll from antibiotic-resistant microbes is 700,000 per year.
"Antimicrobial resistance poses a fundamental threat to human health, development and security," Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the United Nations' World Health Organization, said Wednesday while opening a U.N. meeting on the problem of superbugs.
"We are running out of time," she added.