By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It’s called a silent tsunami — antibiotic resistant bacteria, and it means that the next time you get an infection, standard treatments might not work. Leading scientists fighting superbugs gathered in Philadelphia for a unique conference on Wednesday.

Experts say millions of lives could be in jeopardy, and that’s why the work being done at the Wistar Institute is so important.

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Superbugs are bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics, something like a urinary tract infection — one of the most common — now can’t be treated with the standard ampicillin.

“We are in actually a sort of very scare place of antibiotics,” Wistar Institute Dr. David Weiner said.

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Weiner says the overuse of antibiotics has led to the crisis. Antibiotic resistant bacteria kills 23,000 Americans yearly.

Things such as pneumonia and food poisoning are becoming more difficult to treat.

“We don’t have new classes of antibiotics in the last 30, 40 years that have actually have been effective,” Weiner said.

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To fill that void, Wistar Institute is developing new ways to treat infections.

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One drug directly destroys bacteria and the second in development has two components.

“They’re duel-acting, they stimulate the immune system, which is quite novel as well as target the bacteria directly,” Weiner said.

Wistar Institute researchers are sharing their work with other scientists from all over the country who gathered for the symposium to exchange and explore new ideas for fighting antibiotic resistance.

They are the super brains on the frontlines fighting superbugs, finding new and better ways to treat infections.

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The new treatments are still in the pipeline — for now. Doctors have to rely on heavy duty IV antibiotics to treat some of the resistant bacteria.

Stephanie Stahl