President Obama signed an executive order creating a government task force that is to submit a five-year action plan by Feb. 15 to address antibiotic-resistant bacteria in both human health and animal agriculture. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), antibiotic resistance causes 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths a year in the United States. The “National Strategy” provides detailed actions for five interrelated national goals to be achieved by 2020 in collaboration with partners in healthcare, public health, veterinary medicine, agriculture and food safety. The goals are:
- Slow the emergence and prevent the spread of resistant bacteria.
- Strengthen national efforts to identify and report cases of antibiotic resistance.
- Advance the development and use of rapid diagnostic tests for the identification and characterization of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
- Accelerate basic and applied research and development for new antibiotics as well as other therapeutics and vaccines.
- Improve international collaboration, capacities for antibiotic-resistance prevention, surveillance, control, and antibiotic research and development.
At the same time the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released its recommendation of practical and actionable steps the federal government could take to address the rise of antibiotic resistance. They were:
- Ensure strong federal leadership by establishing an interagency Task Force on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria co-chaired by the secretaries of Agriculture, Defense, and Health and Human Services.
- Develop effective surveillance and response for antibiotic resistance.
- Expand research relevant to developing new antibiotics and alternatives for treating bacterial infections.
- Develop alternatives to antibiotics in agriculture.
- Establish a national infrastructure to support clinical trials with new antibiotics.
- Federal government should significantly increase economic incentives for developing urgently needed antibiotics.
- Improve stewardship of existing antibiotics in health care.
- Support the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) policy to promote the judicious use of antibiotics in agriculture (phase-out of growth promotion).
The Animal Health Institute (AHI) said that animal health companies, producers and veterinarians were “working together to implement FDA’s policy to phase out the use of antibiotics to promote growth and phase in veterinarian oversight. Every company with animal health products affected by this policy has affirmed their intent to comply with FDA’s policy.” The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) said that it was disappointed because it still allows huge loopholes in the restrictions supported by the FDA which is phasing out the use of antibiotics for growth promotion but still allows for the use of antibiotics for prevention in animals.