IRW launches interactive on antibiotic resistance

Workshop Staff


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“Nightmare Bacteria: Life Without Antibiotics” is a new interactive multimedia project of the Investigative Reporting Workshop.

The producers are Larry Kirkman, former dean of the School of Communication and filmmaker-in-residence at IRW, and Robin Mudge, a former AU professor and consultant for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting with extensive television experience in the UK.

This interactive production was made possible in part by a grant from the National Institute for Health Care Management (NIHCM) Foundation and builds on two FRONTLINE films produced in collaboration with IRW: “Hunting the Nightmare Bacteria” and “The Trouble with Antibiotics.”

The goal of the project is to engage and inform a wider audience about the overuse of antibiotics and its consequences. The site uses clips from previously aired programs and divides them into small segments. Viewers also will find additional interviews that did not air; more resources and links; and an explanation of the science behind antibiotics.

This site showcases scenes from the two programs and feature stories of people and hospitals struggling with superbugs; a look at the decline in research among pharmaceutical companies; and the use of antibiotics in food-animal farming.

Addie and her mom are featured in the new interactive as well as in the original programs.

Recently launched initiatives promise some solutions, including the investment by governments in developing new antibiotics, efforts to more quickly detect and identify resistant bacteria and food-industry decisions to use meat grown without antibiotics.

The United Nations warns that “antimicrobial resistance poses a fundamental, long-term threat to human health, sustainable food production and development.”

And The World Bank estimates the global gross domestic product could fall by $100 trillion because of antimicrobial resistance. Complicating the problem: A study by Pew and the CDC estimates 47 million unnecessary prescriptions for antibiotics are written in the U.S. each year.

The head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) used the phrase “nightmare bacteria” to bring attention to the urgency of the problem. The CDC foresees a pre-penicillin future unless there is a significant reduction in overuse and misuse of medicine and food-animal farming.