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Health

KU Pathologist Welcomes Drug Resistance Fight

President Obama has issued an executive order directing the federal government to step up the fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Bryan Thompson reports, it's a fight with enormous consequences.

In her job overseeing infectious disease testing at the University of Kansas Hospital, professor Rebecca Horvat is very familiar with bacteria that are impervious to front-line antibiotics.

“Half of them are very antibiotic-resistant," she says. "You only have a few drugs left to treat them. I see it every day.”

Horvat says the day is coming when disease-causing bacteria will develop resistance to all current antibiotics.

“We’ll go back to the Pre-antibiotic Age, where mothers will see half their children die from infections," she says. "That’s really what used to happen. A lot of your parents will die earlier, because as they get older they get sicker, and there’s no antibiotics left. I don’t mean to make it seem scary, but that is where we’re going."

Horvat says one simple step we all can take is to wash our hands to reduce the spread of bacteria. In conjunction with the executive order, a science advisory council has released a report to the President on combating antibiotic resistance. Among other steps, it calls for reducing overuse of antibiotics in both humans and livestock, incentives to spur development of new antibiotics, and better monitoring of the development and spread of drug-resistant bacteria.