The Obama Administration announced Sept. 18 a comprehensive set of new federal actions to combat the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and protect public health, and the President’s Council of Advisors on Science & Technology (PCAST) released a related report on “Combating Antibiotic Resistance.”
The discovery of antibiotics in the early 20th century fundamentally transformed medicine; antibiotics now save millions of lives each year in the U.S. and around the world, the White House said, yet bacteria repeatedly exposed to the same antibiotics can become resistant to even the most potent drugs. These so-called antibiotic-resistant bacteria can present a serious threat to public health, national security and the economy.
The Administration pointed to data from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention that show antibiotic-resistant infections are associated with an additional 23,000 deaths and 2 million illnesses in the U.S. each year.
The Administration said it is ramping up its efforts to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria through a series of new actions, including:
*An Executive Order directing the federal government to work domestically and internationally to reduce the emergence and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and to help ensure the continued availability of effective treatments for bacterial infections. The Executive Order establishes a new interagency task force and federal advisory council and includes calls for better monitoring of resistant infections, improved regulations governing antibiotic use, more robust research to develop new and effective methods for combating antibiotic resistance and increased international cooperation to curb the global rise in resistant bacteria. Importantly, the Executive Order directs the new interagency task force to develop a five-year national action plan for implementing both the “National Strategy for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria,” which includes goals, milestones and assessment metrics for detecting, preventing and controlling antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and to address the new PCAST report.
*A National Strategy for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, which articulates national goals, priorities and specific objectives that provide an overarching framework for federal investments aimed at combating antibiotic resistance. These include: preventing the spread of resistant bacteria; strengthening national efforts to identify instances of antibiotic resistance; working to develop new antibiotics, therapies and vaccines, and improving international collaboration on this issue.
*A new PCAST report titled “Combating Antibiotic Resistance,” containing recommendations that were developed by PCAST in consultation with a diverse group of experts that span the human and veterinary sectors for actions that the federal government can take to strengthen the nation’s ability to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
*The launch of a $20 million prize sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, Biomedical Advanced Research & Development Authority and the Food & Drug Administration to facilitate the development of a rapid diagnostic test to be used by health care providers to identify highly resistant bacterial infections at the point of patient care.
Following the White House announcement, FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg said the agency has “played a key role in the development of this important effort,” noting that FDA has made “strides on many fronts to make sure we have effective antibiotics for the future.”
In a blog post on the FDA website, Hamburg said it is a “high priority for FDA to work with our partners to find solutions” to antibiotic-resistant bacteria and pointed out two strategies FDA has developed to ensure the judicious use of medically important antimicrobial drugs in food-producing animals.
The Animal Health Institute (AHI) said in a statement that it and its member companies “recognize that it is our role, along with farmers and ranchers and veterinarians – and medical doctors – to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics and minimize the potential for resistant bacteria.”
AHI said the agriculture community recognizes that it has a stake in this issue and are committed to doing its part to ensure the protection of public health.
"In its executive order on combating antibiotic resistant bacteria, the White House acknowledged something that the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) has been saying for years: More epidemiological research is needed to understand the key drivers of increased antibiotic resistance,” said Dr. Howard Hill, a swine veterinarian and president of NPPC.
"NPPC is pleased that the Administration agrees that more research is needed and looks forward to working further with FDA and (the U.S. Department of Agriculture) on determining the most informed and appropriate solutions for combating antibiotic resistant bacteria," Hill said.