Fighting Drug-Resistant Bugs

The case of Andrew Speaker's TB highlights the important battle between bacteria and new antibiotics

Mediscan / Corbis

Drug-resistant bugs are smart, so new types of antibiotics are finding ways to be smarter. Here, a scanning electron micrograph (SEM) shows numerous clumps of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacteria (MRSA).

When Andrew Speaker boarded an Air France flight for Paris last month carrying a form of extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis, he became a global pariah--both for the lethal bug in his system and for the folly of exposing other people to it. But while Speaker may have been reckless, the blame for the emergence of drug-resistant bugs like the one he is incubating falls partly on the rest of us. For years public-health officials have been raising the alarm about how our overreliance on antibiotics is breeding a generation of superbugs, increasingly resistant to the medicines designed to kill them. The problem...

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