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The Antibiotic Resistance Crisis Has a Troubling Twist

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A report released today by the United Nations says that we’ve neglected a major component of the superbug problem: the environment. It serves as a reservoir for bacterial genes that create antimicrobial resistance, and it receives farm run-off and pharmaceutical effluent that let new resistance emerge.

“The same drivers that cause environment degradation are worsening the antimicrobial resistance problem,” Inger Andersen, executive director of the UN Environment Programme, known as UNEP, said in a statement. “The impacts of antimicrobial resistance could destroy our health and food systems.”

The 120-page policy document, “Bracing for Superbugs,” recognizes the environment as a place where antibiotic resistance both arises and wreaks havoc, causing as many as 1.27 million deaths per year. It’s a problem that public health planners have already recognized for hospitals and urgent care centers, as well as farms that produce livestock, fish, and crops. The report gives researchers a framework for understanding pathogens that don’t stay confined within those economic…

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