This piece was originally published in Above the Noise, Burness’ Medium publication. Check it out here

Imagine a world in which millions of people die from simple bacterial infections.

That world is not so far away. “Superbugs” that have evolved to withstand many once-powerful antibiotic medications already kill 700,000 people a year globally. And unless we quickly turn the situation around, the death toll from infections that today are curable could rise to 10 million a year by 2050.

This is something I worry about. You should too. And since it’s World Antibiotic Awareness Week, I’m spreading the angst.

For me, the worrying started in earnest earlier this year, after my niece Christine was hospitalized with a serious infection that turned septic. Christine has a disease called juvenile dermatomyositis, which makes her vulnerable to infections when calcium deposits on her body break the skin.

While at work, a large calcium deposit on the back of her leg erupted. Although Christine immediately sought treatment at the emergency room, infection set in overnight. She returned to the hospital in the morning and spent 12 nights there.

She was violently ill, throwing up so frequently and so forcefully that her whole body was wracked with pain. She had fevers and chills, and a migraine headache that lasted for five days. During her hospital stay, she had three procedures to drain the infection in her leg.

The doctors tried several antibiotic medications to combat the infection, but none of them worked — until they turned to vancomycin, which is used to treat complicated skin infections, bloodstream infections, endocarditis, bone and joint infections, and meningitis.

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