Drug-resistant bacteria kill 23,000 Americans a year, and widespread antibiotic misuse is making the epidemic worse.

Right now, billions of good bacteria are helping to keep you alive.

They’re helping you digest your food, preventing you from getting sick, and suppressing the growth of harmful bacteria in your body.

Some of those tough little buggers can do battle with the most advanced antibiotics available and come out unscathed. Bacteria, like all other living things, want nothing more than to survive.

While many of them do good, others don’t. Humans got a leg up on harmful microbes the day we discovered antibiotics, which have eradicated many deadly diseases and allowed for life-saving surgeries.

But we’ve been irresponsible with this hallmark of modern medicine, and antibiotic misuse and overuse have given rise to drug-resistant bacteria. Now, infectious-disease experts watch tens of thousands of Americans die every year from these “superbugs.”

How did this happen? There’s no single answer. Drug resistance is a natural phenomenon, but modern farming methods and prescribing practices have pushed it into overdrive. Experts are working to regain some ground in order to protect the effectiveness of current antibiotics.

Experts say we stand at a tipping point from which we could be thrust back into a pre-antibiotic era—and science, medicine, agriculture, and government all play a role in both the problem and the solution.

What You Should Know About Antibiotics

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Slideshow

Discover the basics of antibiotic resistance.

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Part 1

How bacteria evolve into untreatable ‘superbugs’.

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Part 2

How patient demand fuels antibiotic resistance.

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Part 3

The antibiotic development pipeline is running dry.

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Part 4

Federal inaction in the face of solid science.

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Part 5

Consumer demand is bringing agriculture back to its roots.

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Part 6

Why antibiotic legislation is a tough political sell.

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Part 7

How you can fight back against the epidemic.

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