Administration Outlines Comprehensive Plan to Combat Antibiotic-resistant Bacteria

September 24, 2014 03:53 pm News Staff

CDC microbiologist Valerie Albrecht, M.P.H., holds up two Petri dish plates of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

Antibiotic-resistant infections are associated with 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths in the United States each year, according to the CDC. Estimates of the annual effect of these infections on the U.S. economy range from $20 billion in excess health costs to $35 billion, including lost productivity from sick days and hospitalizations.

Despite efforts by various entities to tackle one element of this problem or another, it continues to grow at a rapid pace. In response, President Obama signed an executive order( on Sept. 18 directing key federal departments and agencies to take comprehensive action to fight the rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria, according to a White House fact sheet.(

Specifically, the executive order establishes a new Task Force for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, as well as a Presidential Advisory Council on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria. The task force is to be co-chaired by the secretaries of Defense, Agriculture and HHS and is charged with submitting a national action plan to the president that outlines specific actions the federal government will take to further the administration's goals in this area.

CDC Highlights ITS Role in Fighting Antibiotic Resistance

In the CDC Director Blog( on Sept. 18, agency head Thomas Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., highlighted ways the CDC anticipates being involved in the administration's orchestrated effort to combat antibiotic resistance, including through

  • improving antibiotic stewardship by defining best practices and educating prescribers about getting patients the right medicine at the right time, which includes prescribing only when necessary;
  • creating a new Antibiotic Resistance Regional Lab Network and a Resistant Bacteria Bank to speed outbreak detection and provide a tool to aid development of new antibiotics and diagnostics; and
  • fighting antibiotic resistance threats in the community by improving systems and enhancing infrastructure to quickly detect and rapidly respond to outbreaks; and
  • collaborating with the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to track resistance in humans, animals and the food we eat and to promote antibiotic stewardship across the food chain.

"Every day we don't act to better protect antibiotics will make it harder and more expensive to address drug resistance in the future," Frieden said in a news release. "Drug resistance can undermine both our ability to fight infectious diseases and much of modern medicine," he added.

"We must be diligent stewards of antibiotics, protecting this precious resource in doctor’s offices, homes and farms, so that they are available to help us and our children in the future."

The Presidential Advisory Council will be made up of leading nongovernmental experts and will provide advice, information and recommendations on programs and policies intended to

  • preserve antibiotic effectiveness;
  • strengthen surveillance for antibiotic-resistant infections;
  • facilitate development of rapid, point-of-care diagnostic tools for use in human health care and agriculture;
  • advance research on treatments for bacterial infections;
  • develop alternatives to use of antibiotics for some agricultural purposes; and
  • enhance international coordination of efforts to combat antibiotic resistance.

Along with the executive order, the administration released its National Strategy on Combating Antibiotic-resistant Bacteria(, which articulates five interrelated goals and specific objectives linked to each of those goals that are to be achieved by 2020 in collaboration with partners in a number of industries, including health care, public health, agriculture and food safety.

[CDC - Antibiotic Resistance Threat]

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 and capacities for antibiotic-resistance prevention, surveillance, control, and antibiotic research and development.

Another component in the plan to fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria is the release of a report( from the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. The report outlines actionable steps the federal government could take to help address this situation in the coming years via focused efforts in three areas:

  • improving surveillance of antibiotic-resistant bacteria to enable effective response, stop outbreaks and limit the spread of antibiotic-resistant organisms;
  • increasing longevity of current and new antibiotics by promoting appropriate use, preventing the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and scaling up proven interventions to decrease the rate at which microbes develop resistance; and
  • increasing rates of discovery and development of new antibiotics.

The final piece in this comprehensive launch is the announcement that NIH and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority will co-sponsor a $20 million prize for the development of a rapid, point-of-care diagnostic test for health care professionals to use to identify highly resistant bacterial infections.