In March 2016, Debbi Forsythe, from Morpeth, Northumberland, contracted a urinary tract infection—a common disease that affects over 150 million people worldwide each year. She was prescribed the usual treatment of a three-day course of antibiotics and was expected to be cured in no time. But after a few weeks, she fainted and began passing blood, and her general practitioner again prescribed trimethoprim.
Three days later, Forsythe was rushed to the emergency room. Doctors put her on a second antibiotic, gentamicin, to no success.
Five days later, she was diagnosed with an infection of multi-drug-resistant E coli and treated with ertapenem, a so-called "last resort” antibiotic. It worked, but Forsythe still is haunted by the possibility of future serious infections. Half a year after her initial hospital visit, she developed another UTI that again resulted in a hospital stay.
Antimicrobial resistance, the process in which bacteria become immune to the drugs we use to treat them, has become declared a "global health emergency" by the UN. So-called "superbugs" affect 2 million Americans each year. In May 2016, a report by the UK government predicted that superbugs could kill 10 million people per year by 2050.
“We have a good chance of getting to a point where for a lot of people there are no [effective] antibiotics,” leader of the Global Health team at Nesta Daniel Berman said.