Public Health

Is Human Resistance Futile? Maps Show March Of Drug-Resistant Germs

A look at the distribution of drug-resistant staph bacteria across the county shows the problem is worse in the South.

A look at the distribution of drug-resistant staph bacteria across the county shows the problem is worse in the South. Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy hide caption

itoggle caption Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy

I don't want to freak you out. OK, maybe a tiny bit. Being a little scared might get you to wash your hands more often. And that would be a good thing for everyone.

So just tool around this collection of interactive maps showing the march of drug-resistant germs across North America and Europe. The global health nonprofit Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy came up with the ResistanceMap. The project is called Extending the Cure, and in addition to mapping the problem, it also wants to find ways to keep antibiotics effective and develop new ones.

Here in the U.S., we're doing better than average when it comes to antibiotic-resistant pneumonia with a resistance score of 19. That's compared with, say, Greece, which gets a 90 on a scale of 100, which would be the worst.

But we have nothing to brag about when it comes to drug-resistant staph, or MRSA. The group's analysis shows, for example, that we have one of the highest rates of drug-resistant staph strains, despite some improvement. And within the U.S. the problem is most acute in the South, as the screengrab above shows.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a funder of NPR, helped with financial support of the project through its Pioneer Portfolio. The maps update previous work by Extending the Cure.

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