"That's a tremendous impact," CBS News medical contributor Dr. David Agus told "CBS This Morning." And the problem is not just hypothetical. "It's a real threat today. It's going to be a bigger threat," he said.
Superbugs such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, commonly called MRSA, are currently blamed for about 23,000 deaths a year in the United States. Earlier this year, the World Health Organization warned that antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria have now spread worldwide and could lead to a "post-antibiotic era in which common infections and minor injuries...can once again kill." The WHO report called the problem "so serious that it threatens the achievements of modern medicine."
The risk has grown in recent years as the overuse of common antibiotics encouraged growth of drug-resistant strains. "Every time somebody has a fever, a doctor can give them an antibiotic. We have to stop that," Agus said. Antibiotics don't work against viral infections like a cold or the flu, but patients often ask for the drugs anyway, and too often doctors comply...
Colorized transmission electron micrograph showing USA 300 strain of Staphlococcus aureus, shown in gold, outside a white blood cell, shown in blue. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). From the National Institutes of Health