FRONTLINE INVESTIGATES THE RISE OF DEADLY, DRUG-RESISTANT BACTERIA THAT MODERN ANTIBIOTICS CAN’T STOP
Addie Rerecich was a happy 11-year-old girl who loved sports and talked a mile a minute. But when a mysterious pain in her hip landed her in the hospital in 2011, she began a downward spiral into the nightmare of a new kind of antibiotic-resistant infection that is confounding doctors across the world.
Addie’s precipitous decline might sound unusual, but as FRONTLINE reports in Hunting the Nightmare Bacteria, premiering Tuesday, Oct. 22, at 10 p.m. (check local PBS listings), medicine’s struggle with deadly drug-resistant infections is becoming all too real.
“The world is entering a post-antibiotic era. Doctors tell me there are patients for whom we have no therapy. The bacteria are growing stronger, and the drug pipeline is drying up,” says award-winning journalist David E. Hoffman, who investigates the crisis for FRONTLINE.
In Hunting the Nightmare Bacteria, Hoffman examines the alarming rise of superbugs that our modern antibiotics can’t stop—from Addie Rerecich’s case to that of David Ricci, who brings a nasty infection home from India, and to a rare look inside an uncontrollable outbreak at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center—the NIH—one of the nation’s most prestigious research hospitals, where 19 patients were sickened and seven died.
“The rise of antimicrobial resistance is a threat to us all. Prominent public health officials are using words like ‘nightmare’ and ‘catastrophic,’” Hoffman says. “But even though we’ve known about this problem for decades, the alarms have not been met with similar levels of urgency in the public or the government.”
As FRONTLINE reports, after decades of antibiotic overuse, the crisis of untreatable infections has only deepened. Most major drug companies, squeezed by Wall Street expectations and facing steep scientific hurdles, have abandoned the development of new antibiotics. The film takes viewers behind the story of one major drug company’s efforts to overcome the new drug-resistant superbugs—and why, despite those efforts, the drug pipeline is running dry.