Antibiotic resistance: a call to action to prevent the next epidemic of inequality
The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the deadly impacts of structural racism and systemic health inequalities on racial and ethnic minorities in the USA. Black and Hispanic/Latinx populations have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, accounting for nearly half of the cases and 37% of the deaths so far, despite making up less than a third of the US population. This stark imbalance has highlighted the need to examine the role of racial and ethnic disparities in shaping health outcomes.
Antibiotic resistance (AR) is widely considered to be the next global pandemic. When bacteria no longer respond to antibiotics, treatment is more costly and burdensome and is much less likely to succeed. As many as 162,000 US adults die from multidrug-resistant bacterial infections each year, which makes resistant infections the third leading cause of death. Rising concerns about both the health impacts and economic impacts of AR have led to national efforts to increase surveillance, minimize inappropriate antibiotic use, jumpstart the development of diagnostics and antibiotics, and increase awareness of AR. However, the idea that AR could disproportionately impact racial and ethnic minorities has not yet entered the scientific discourse.
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