Bill Pullman is a famous actor, but the role he most wants to discuss is his work as spokesperson for The Antibiotic Resistance Monitoring, Analysis and Diagnostics Alliance (ARMADA), a non-profit initiative seeking to combat the growing threat of antibiotic resistance.
“My brother is an infectious disease doctor in Montana,” Pullman said. “He had encountered for the first time infections that he couldn’t cure. He said, ‛I want to help this microbiologist in Seattle.’”
The numbers are frightening — More than 2 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur each year, resulting in 23,000 deaths in the United States alone. It’s estimated that antibiotic-resistant bacteria will claim 300 million lives by 2050.
“When you look at solutions, many people think technology just needs to get better,” Pullman said. “But it takes 10 years and a billion dollars to come up with a new antibiotic.”
ARMADA was set up to use a global network of hospitals, physicians, veterinarians, scientists, and citizens to build a database of bacteria and their antibiotic resistance profiles, with the goal of minimizing resistance and preserving our ability to fight infections.
“ARMADA is an acronym,” Pullman said, “but it also suggests a shield of some sort, a protective thing.”
The Pullman connection
Pullman’s family has a strong connection to medicine.
“In some ways, I’m the black sheep going into the arts,” he said with a laugh. “When you see the day-to-day values of what my brothers and sisters are doing — a nurse practitioner, a doctor, a therapist — I wonder ‘What are you doing to benefit the common good?’ So some of it comes from having some good models, and I’m just doing what I can.”
Anyone else wanting to help can start with shopping for food labeled as using antibiotics responsibly, listening when their physician suggests monitoring an infection, and donating money to the cause.
When it comes to antibiotic-resistant infections, the worst is yet to come. The scientists at ARMADA and citizen advocates like Pullman are sounding the alarm, and we should all be listening.
Jeff Somers, [email protected]