2017 Large Newspaper - Gold

Fifteen years after the U.S. government declared antibiotic-resistant infections to be a grave threat to public health, a Reuters investigation, “The Uncounted,” found that infection-related deaths are going uncounted because federal and state agencies are doing a poor job of tracking them. They lack the political, legal and financial power to impose rigorous surveillance, including mandating that specific drug-resistant infections be routinely recorded on death certificates. The number of deaths from such infections, regularly cited in news reports and scholarly papers, are mostly guesswork, the reporters found. A Reuters survey of health departments in all 50 states and the District of Columbia found wide variations in how they track seven leading “superbug” infections. Through interviews with patients and family members, the Reuters reporters also described the human and financial toll of superbug infections. They described the status of research efforts to develop more effective treatments to combat the emerging microbial threats, citing legal and financial obstacles that have made it harder than ever to create effective new drugs. “The Reuters investigation of the superbug problem broke new ground on a major health issue threatening the country,” said Warren Leary, a science writer formerly with The New York Times who helped judge the contest. “Fine work.” In a statement upon learning of their award, the team members said: “We were astounded at how little the nation knows about antibiotic-resistant infections, a problem that threatens how we practice modern medicine. Nobody knows how many people are dying or where. Worse, as our reporting showed, patients, their loved ones and the wider community are often left in the dark when an outbreak of these infections strikes.” Deborah Nelson, a member of the Reuters team, previously won the award in 2000 in the large newspaper category.