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FRONTLINE: Hunting The Nightmare Bacteria

Airs Tuesday, July 7, 2015 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Could the age of antibiotics be coming to an end? Fueled by decades of antibiotic overuse, “nightmare bacteria” have emerged, spreading quickly in hospitals, communities and across the globe. FRONTLINE investigates.

“Nightmare bacteria.” That’s how the CDC describes a frightening new threat spreading quickly in hospitals, communities and across the globe. In "Hunting The Nightmare Bacteria," FRONTLINE reporter David Hoffman investigates the alarming rise of untreatable infections: from a young girl thrust onto life support in an Arizona hospital, to a young American infected in India who comes home to Seattle, and an uncontrollable outbreak at the nation’s most prestigious hospital, where 18 patients were mysteriously infected and six died, despite frantic efforts to contain the killer bacteria.

Fueled by decades of antibiotic overuse, the crisis has deepened as major drug companies, squeezed by Wall Street expectations, have abandoned the development of new antibiotics. Without swift action, the miracle age of antibiotics could be coming to an end.

“The world is entering a post-antibiotic era. Doctors tell me there are patients for whom we have no therapy. The bacteria are growing stronger, and the drug pipeline is drying up,” says award-winning journalist David E. Hoffman, who investigates the crisis for FRONTLINE.

“The rise of antimicrobial resistance is a threat to us all. Prominent public health officials are using words like ‘nightmare’ and ‘catastrophic,’” Hoffman says. “But even though we’ve known about this problem for decades, the alarms have not been met with similar levels of urgency in the public or the government.”

Past episodes of FRONTLINE are available for online viewing. FRONTLINE is on Facebook, and follow @frontlinepbs on Twitter.

Hunting the Nightmare Bacteria

Has the age of antibiotics come to an end? From a young girl thrust onto life support in Arizona to an uncontrollable outbreak at one of the nation’s most prestigious hospitals, FRONTLINE investigates the alarming rise of a deadly type of bacteria that our modern antibiotics can’t stop.

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Avatar for user 'dmi'

dmi | November 5, 2013 at 5:38 a.m. ― 3 years, 4 months ago

Dear Mr. Hoffman: Very poorly done. You never questioned how or why infections spread. Why did NIH fail to contain the spread of the infection or more broadly why is it infection rates in US hospitals are much higher than in several other countries?! To allow NIH staff to say "no matter what we did" without asking what did they do exactly and to allow the Clinical Center Chief to say the problem will be with us "until the cows come home" is, in a word, pathetic. The all important question you never bothered to ask is why do US hospitals continue fail to adopt universal precautions, for example, why did/does NIH not, routinely, test all patients?

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