FRONTLINE | The Trouble With Antibiotics
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Watch Tuesday, October 14, 2014 at 10pm on WMHT TV.

Each year, an estimated 2 million people in the U.S. are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria — and at least 23,000 die.

As the crisis deepens, FRONTLINE correspondent David E. Hoffman turns his attention to the American farm, where an estimated 70 percent of all antibiotics sold go, and investigates: Are these antibiotics contributing to the growth of resistant bacteria that threaten the health of people?

FRONTLINE first explored the rise of antibiotic resistance last fall in Hunting the Nightmare Bacteria. Now, as scientists warn that the world is at “dire risk” of losing the remarkable power of antibiotic drugs that have saved millions of lives, FRONTLINE returns to the crisis with The Trouble with Antibiotics—a two-part hour that includes:

  • An examination of the science and politics behind the widespread use of antibiotics in food animals, and
  • An exclusive interview with the parents of a young man who died in a nightmare bacteria outbreak that swept through the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, one of the nation’s most prestigious research hospitals.

“Nearly four decades ago, scientists and government officials warned that widespread antibiotic use to raise food animals could put human health at risk. Today, new science is raising these warnings again, yet the government has been very slow to take action to limit antibiotic use on the farm,” says Hoffman.

In The Trouble with Antibiotics, Hoffman travels the country to investigate new research out of Arizona, Pennsylvania and North Texas focusing on how antibiotics on the farm might be fueling the crisis of antibiotic resistance for humans. FRONTLINE traces the history and controversy over antibiotics in agriculture, discovers gaps in basic data about how antibiotics are used on the farm — and raises questions about why that information does not exist.

Then, in a second segment, FRONTLINE returns to the story of a superbug outbreak at the NIH. For the first time, Minnesota parents who lost their 20-year-old son are speaking out publicly about what they experienced: “I mean, you’re watching your son die in front of you and there’s absolutely nothing you can do,” the young man’s father tells FRONTLINE. “You’re in the best medical facility in the world, and the doctors can do nothing.”

With antibiotic-resistant superbugs spreading across the globe in frightening ways and with alarming speed, FRONTLINE’s The Trouble with Antibiotics is a must-watch look at a public health crisis that threatens everyone.