There's a growing threat that could kill 10 million people a year by 2050


Most of us have encountered an antibiotic at some point in our lives — either to treat an ear infection, combat a round of strep throat, or treat a pesky cough.

But, as antibiotic resistance continues to be a growing problem around the world, it's often hard to make the connection between drug-resistant bacteria and ourselves.

"When you get resistance for a common infection, it's a big problem, which we're sort of ignoring a bit like global warming," Dr. Colin Broom, CEO of Nabriva Therapeutics, a biotech developing a new antibiotic to treat community acquired bacterial pneumonia. The drug, called lefamulin, is currently in phase three trials, with some results coming later this year.

SEE ALSO: We're on track to 'lose the most powerful tool we have to fight life-threatening infections'

Antibiotic resistance is expected to kill 10 million people annually by 2050. And it hasn't been easy to get new drugs to stay ahead of the problem. Over the years, many major pharmaceutical companies have stopped developing new antibiotics, and those that are still in development have faced a number of stumbling blocks toward approval.

The reason there are similarities in the responses to climate change and antibiotic resistance is because there tends to be a misconception about antibiotic resistance and how it spreads, Broom said.

Check out different kinds of bacteria

Various bacteria, diseases, infections
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Various bacteria, diseases, infections


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E.coli bacteria

(Photo by Ian Cuming via Getty Images)

S. pyrogens, a nonmotile, pathogenic bacteria. Commonly associated with septic sore throat infections (known as 'strep throat') & scarlet fever.

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Influenza virus particle surrounded by some floating red blood cells

(Photo by Ralf Hiemisch via Getty Images)


(Photo by Ed Reschke via Getty Images)

Microscopic Image of Escherichia Coli

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MRSA Staphylococcus aureus Bacteria outside a white blood cell

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Microscopic Image of Neisseria Gonorrhoeae

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Neisseria gonorrhoeae

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Microscopic Image of Clostridium Tetani

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Cyanobacteria in stream

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It's easy to deny that you're involved, especially if you're not actively getting treated for a bacterial infection. According to a World Health Organization survey from 2015, 76% of those who responded think that antibiotic resistance happens when a person's body becomes resistant to the drug. Thus, because they're not actively taking an antibiotic, resistance isn't their problem. But in reality, that's not the case.

"It has nothing to do with you," Broom said. "It's the bacteria that somebody else has had that you pick up."

So while you might not be experiencing a bug that's resistant personally, that doesn't mean it's not getting worse.

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"That I think is the disconnect," Dr. Elyse Seltzer, chief medical officer of Nabriva told Business Insider. "At the national organization level there's a clear recognition of the need for new antibiotics."

Government organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been warning about the rise of antibiotic resistance, saying we'll soon be in a "post antibiotic era."

But, according to Seltzer, that doesn't necessarily translate to day-to-day operations at a hospital, where a doctor might prescribe an antibiotic and never hear from the patient again — meaning the drug may have done the trick, or the patient went somewhere else for more help.

That disconnect is similar to what happens with climate change, where you might not encounter an example of it every day, but on a global level it's still happening.

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