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Drug-Resistant Superbugs Are “Fundamental Threat” to Humans, WHO says
Air Date: 09/21/2016
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Drug Resistant Superbugs Are “Fundamental Threat” to Humans, WHO says

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, anchor:

Imagine your child is severely ill and there's no antibiotic that can help them. Drug resistant superbugs are becoming more common. The World Health Organization today called these deadly bacteria, quote, "a fundamental threat to human health, development and security." Tonight NBC's Doctor John Torres takes us inside the military's highly secured lab helping lead the fight against superbugs.

DR. JOHN TORRES, reporting:

These are some of the last photos of Simon Sparrow, taken just before the 18 month old suddenly became ill and died. The cause of death? An antibiotic resistant infection called MRSA.

EVERLY MACARIO: The parent's worst nightmare. You're just in a state of complete disbelief.

DR. TORRES: Scientists are predicting that by 2050, superbugs could kill 10 million people a year. More than the number who currently die from cancer. Is this a battle or is this a war?

PATRICK MCGANN: This is a flat out war.

DR. TORRES: On the front lines of the fight in the U.S., the military, which runs the world's largest surveillance system looking for superbugs. The goal? To find them before there's an outbreak.

PATRICK MCGANN: Once all these antibiotics are gone, even your simple routine surgery or even something as simple as urinary tract infection can become very, very serious.

DR. TORRES: This lab at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research is where scientists recently found one of the world's scariest superbugs, a mutant E. coli bacteria, resistant to the antibiotic of last resort. This is the big bad one.

MCGANN: This is the big bad guy.

DR. TORRES: Scientists here analyzed thousands of samples from military hospitals across the globe.

LIEUTENANT COLONEL KURT SCHAECHER: When we find things like this, it's here. It's here in the United States.

DR. TORRES: A looming crisis blamed in part on the overuse of antibiotics. But here's what you can do, only use antibiotics when necessary. Take the full prescription and keep vaccinations up to date. Small steps to curb a dangerous and growing threat. Doctor John Torres, NBC News, Silver Spring, Maryland.