Pennies to fight plasmids (commentary)

Actually, we should get a lot more than pennies to fight plasmids and superbugs if President Obama signs the Congressional proposed budget for the 2016 fiscal year.

And since he was the one proposing nearly doubling the amount of funds to fight antibiotic resistance on multiple fronts, I would assume he has no problem with Congress’s proposed 57%  increase over 2015 funding for the same purpose.

The amount, the largest ever, is $375 million in new funds to fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria, one of the biggest public health threats in the U.S. and worldwide.

Congress has directed where these funds will go and how they will be spent.

The Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) gets by far the largest chunk, totaling $160 million to go to state and local health departments to help them in the fight against outbreaks. The state and local health departments, with their public health laboratories and epidemiologists, are the front line in detecting and solving outbreaks. 

CDC only comes to the aid of the locals and states when asked.

Part of the $160 million is to bolster local laboratory capacity, something the CDC has been funding since the 9/11 attacks and the following Anthrax attacks using the U.S. Postal Service. I have to wonder what more the states can do in this arena?

The National Institutes of Health will see $100 million more coming its way for research on antimicrobial resistance, finally pointing out to all that we really don’t have the answers to why resistance sometimes develops, and sometimes not.

When someone points a finger at human health and say we have an emerging issue because antibiotics are overprescribed they are, to a point, correct.

But to quote my friend Guy Lonergan, DVM, PhD, and probably more ABCs, “If you think you understand antibiotic resistance, then it has not been properly explained to you.”

Why, for instance, is penicillin still the drug of choice for Strep throat and Syphilis, but almost worthless against Staph aureus

The Biomedical Advanced Research & Development Agency (BARDA) will get nearly $100 million of its own to explore new therapies to fight bacterial infections. I have suggested this is an important governmental task more than once, as the pharmaceutical companies invest in research for meds to treat chronic diseases for years, not an antibiotic to be taken for five days.

In a time where the split between Republicans and Democrats has nearly paralyzed our federal government, I found it pleasantly surprising that the Republican-controlled Congress answered the President’s call for the increased funding.

Being a former Bush nominee, I obviously have differences with the President’s politics, but I am behind him all the way on this one.

I think animal ag should be also. The research on causes of resistance may get them off the hook and the development of new therapies will slow down the cry of urgency for change.

I hope.

Lance Price, a molecular epidemiologist and director of Antibiotic Resistance Action Center at George Washington University’s Institute of Public Health said, “I would hate for people to think this is actually sufficient.”

He then referred to the “funding dead zone” lacking research into the possible linkage between antibiotic use in agriculture and antibiotic resistant infections in humans.

Public Health folks often forget to say “thank you” and instead say “Please, Sir, I want some more.”

OK, so I didn’t have time nor space to get into the plasmids mentioned early on. It is more than a bit complicated, but that story explains better why so many are so worried about antibiotic resistance.

More on that subject next blog I promise. It is an interesting and scary subject.

By the way, I just had a root canal for a periodontal abscess. Prior to the fun morning at the Endodontic office, I was prescribed Clindamycin, 300 mg every 6 hours.

No way is one able to take it every six hours without setting an alarm clock. That makes compliance difficult.

During the day I counted the hours so I could get another 300mg in my system fighting the bugs, but after the pain subsided I found myself sidetracked and forgetting to take the antibiotic in a timely fashion.    

The every six hours is to keep a constant level in the blood stream. To stray from that regimen leads to varying antibiotic levels, some maybe not therapeutic.

That is just one of the many pathways that lead to resistant bacteria.

Stay tuned in 2016.

*Dr. Richard Raymond is a former U.S. Department of Agriculture undersecretary for food safety.

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