Today, the Obama administration is announcing a comprehensive set of new federal actions to combat the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and protect public health. Additionally, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) is releasing 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 United States and around the world. 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.
In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, antibiotic-resistant infections are associated with an additional 23,000 deaths and 2 million illnesses in the United States each year. The estimated annual impact of antibiotic-resistant infections on the national economy is $20 billion in excess direct health care costs, and as much as $35 billion in lost productivity from hospitalizations and sick days. Antibiotics are also critical to many modern medical interventions, including chemotherapy, surgery, dialysis, and organ transplantation.
The Administration is ramping up our 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 entitled 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 and Development Authority, and the Food and 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.
These actions will help the nation contain the spread of resistant bacterial strains, manage existing antibiotics to prevent the development of new resistant strains, and help guarantee a steady pipeline of new, effective antibiotics and diagnostics. Most importantly, these actions will help save thousands of lives each year.