How My Fight for Antibiotics Reminds Me of ‘Titanic’: Part 3

A columnist explains how the Pasteur Act would help to develop new antibiotics

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by Nicole Kohr |

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Last in a series. Read parts one and two

In my first column of this series, I described my relationship with antibiotics. In the second, I broke down the characters in the musical “Titanic” and mentioned those I thought were most likely to be affected by a crisis like antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Now, I’d like to introduce the Pasteur Act and the importance of antibiotic-related advocacy.

The Titanic took its maiden voyage in 1912. Did you know that the first antibiotic came on the scene in 1910, and penicillin wasn’t discovered until 1928? In 100 years, antibiotics have extended life spans an average of 23 years.

As a cystic fibrosis (CF) patient, I often feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. I require daily antibiotics to combat my lifelong battle with germs. The overproduction of mucus in my lungs leaves me with a heightened risk of infection. I’ve battled many bugs with the help of antibiotics, including Pseudomonas aeruginosa, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, and Mycobacterium abscessus.

Unfortunately, when existing antibiotics become ineffective or harmful, the only saving grace is an extensive pipeline of new antibiotics. This pipeline does not exist — yet. Additionally, AMR is a growing crisis defined as when a superbug mutates into an antibiotic-resistant form. Over time, the superbugs become resistant to medication. The more we use antibiotics, the greater the chance that bacteria become resistant to them.

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The Pasteur Act

Enter the Pasteur Act. This is a bipartisan bill in the U.S. that would enable the development of new antibiotics and put an end to this crisis. If it passes Congress, the Pasteur Act would refill the antibiotic pipeline, introduce subscription contracts, keep antibiotics affordable, award grants, and empower and employ a panel of experts to ensure innovative antibiotics are created.

As of March 2019, I was riddled with infection, but there were zero antibiotics left in my pipeline. This is a crisis, and similar to the Titanic, certain people (myself included) are drowning more than others. However, the crisis will affect all of us. Our preparedness will determine when everyone will be affected, how badly, how much it will cost, and how many lives can be spared.

The bill was introduced in the Senate in September 2020, and in the House three months later. We have no time to spare.

The trick

The development of new antibiotics is challenging and expensive. According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF), the projected cost associated with the Pasteur Act is lower than the cost of a multidrug resistant crisis. To stay ahead of this catastrophe, however, we must produce more options that treat patients. To do this, the bill must pass.


This crisis hits close to home, but I am not the only affected patient. In fact, every year, 2.8 million Americans develop serious infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Hence, I am very passionate about advocacy related to this issue. I have spoken on a variety of platforms about AMR.

On Aug. 4, I spoke on an in-person panel alongside AMR advocates such as Diane Shader Smith and members of the Partnership to Fight Infectious Disease. This panel allowed me to tell my story. Storytelling is the strongest form of patient advocacy, so I hope more advocates will add their AMR journey to the cause.

Back in March, I participated virtually in March on the Hill, via the CFF. I had the privilege of communicating with members of Congress and asking them to support the Pasteur Act. I am also the acting congressional captain for the CFF’s Eastern/Central Carolinas Chapter. I’m thankful for all the training that the CFF provided because I feel equipped to approach lawmakers when they have questions or concerns related to the bill. My story, however, is still my most important tool.


The need to incentivize antibiotic development was urgent before the pandemic, and urgency has deepened since the arrival of COVID-19. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reports have shown antibiotic-resistant infections have grown more dangerous as a result of the novel coronavirus.

Wrap up

Advocating for the Pasteur Act is vitally important in this fight. The survivors of the Titanic would have had numerous infections and been helped by antibiotics. For cystic fibrosis patients like myself, antibiotics are a necessary tool to combat inevitable respiratory infections and prevent lung scarring. The CFF recognizes the seriousness of this problem and has dedicated more than $100 million to the Infection Research Initiative. But we can’t do this alone.

Who are you advocating for? Have you ever experienced an infection? Join a panel. Like an article. Share your story. Call your lawmakers. Tell a friend. Like and share an AMR social media post. Don’t let the history of a crisis like the Titanic repeat itself.

Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cystic Fibrosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.


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