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White House Announces Plan To Fight Antibiotic Resistant Superbugs

Amid continuing concerns about the health risks associated with the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, or “superbugs”, the Obama administration has announced a plan last week to fight the deadly infections and slow the spread of resistant bacteria.  

A five year plan to combat and prevent antibiotic-resistant bacteria was released by the White House on Friday. The National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria (PDF) highlights five steps it plans to enact, including implementing more stringent and judicious antibiotic prescribing methods.

The White House cites antibiotics for saving millions of lives each year, yet antibiotic-resistance limits the ability to perform a range of necessary modern medical procedures, such as surgery, chemotherapy, and organ transplants.

The first step of the plan is to slow the emergence of resistant bacteria and prevent the spread of resistant infections by implementing smarter prescribing practices in both human and animal healthcare. According to the plan, this would be done by eliminating the use of medically important antibiotics for growth promotion in animals.

The new plan also calls for “One Health” surveillance efforts to be strengthened. This would require detection and controls of antibiotics to be integrated from multiple monitoring networks, while providing detailed genomic data and information to track resistant bacteria.

The third step of the plan calls for the advancement and use of rapid and innovative diagnostic tests. These tests would allow doctors to distinguish between viral and bacterial infections with rapid “point-of-need” diagnostic tests. This would make it easier for doctors to recommend appropriate treatment, antibiotics only when necessary.

“The emergence of drug resistance in bacteria is undermining the effectiveness of current antibiotics and our ability to treat and prevent disease,” wrote the White House in a press release concerning the plan.

The next portion of the plan focuses on accelerating basic and applied research and development to support streamlining the drug development process. This would help increase the number of potential drugs at all stages of development.

Finally, the plan also calls to improve international collaboration concerning the capacity to detect, monitor, analyze and report antibiotic-resistance.

The plan was released in response to an executive order issued last year by the President. The executive order called for a national strategy to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria, citing a launch date for early 2015.

Concerns Over Antibiotic-Resistant “Superbugs” Growing

Drug-resistant superbugs recently made headlines across the country after nearly 200 patients treated at California’s UCLA Medical Center were exposed to a deadly antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The outbreak caused two deaths, seven confirmed infections and was linked to tainted medical equipment, which had undergone normal sterilization treatment.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates drug-resistant bacteria, or superbugs, cause 2 million illnesses and approximately 23,000 deaths each year in the United States alone.

A British report published late last year said we may see 10 million deaths attributable to antibiotic resistant bacteria every year by 2050. The report called drug-resistant germs a “global crisis,” estimating it will cost up to $100 trillion.

Another study published last year questioned the common practice of treating resistant pathogens with aggressive doses of antibiotics. The study revealed this may not be the best way to treat resistant pathogens. Using aggressive or multiple rounds of antibiotics it may contribute to the spread of superbugs.

The federal budget released earlier this year proposed a near doubling of the amount of federal funding for combating and preventing antibiotic-resistance, bringing the budget to more than $1.2 billion for this area.

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