Press Release | FRONTLINE Investigates the Growing Superbug Crisis

October 6, 2014
by Patrice Taddonio Assistant Director of Audience Development

Two-part hour examines antibiotic use on the American farm,
then revisits a nightmare bacteria outbreak at the NIH

The Trouble with Antibiotics
Tuesday, October 14, 2014, at 10 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings) | Twitter: @frontlinepbs #frontlinepbs
Instagram: @frontlinepbs | YouTube:

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.

The Trouble with Antibiotics airs Tuesday, October 14 at 10 p.m. on PBS (check local listings) and will stream in full, for free, online at


The Trouble with Antibiotics is a FRONTLINE production with American University School of Communication’s Investigative Reporting Workshop. It is produced by Rick Young and Anthony Szulc. The correspondent is David E. Hoffman. The deputy executive producer of FRONTLINE is Raney Aronson-Rath. The executive producer of FRONTLINE is David Fanning.

FRONTLINE, U.S. television’s longest running investigative documentary series, explores the issues of our times through powerful storytelling. FRONTLINE has won every major journalism and broadcasting award, including 69 Emmy Awards and 16 Peabody Awards. Visit and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Google+ to learn more.

FRONTLINE is produced by WGBH Boston and is broadcast nationwide on PBS. Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Major funding for FRONTLINE is provided by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Park Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Wyncote Foundation, and the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund with major support from Jon and Jo Ann Hagler on behalf of the Jon L. Hagler Foundation. Major funding for Hunting the Nightmare Bacteria was provided by the Kendeda Fund.

Press Contact
Patrice Taddonio,, @ptaddonio, 617.300.5375 Download promotional photography from the PBS Pressroom.

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