Earlier this month the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology (PCAST) released a report on antibiotic resistance. President Obama asked for the report in 2013 to make practical recommendations for combating the rise of antibiotic resistance which has been keenly felt over the last decade. The report offers three major recommendations for addressing the threat:
- Increasing the surveillance of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
- Improving the longevity of current antibiotics.
- Increasing the rate at which new antibiotics and other treatments are developed and implemented
The second and third recommendations are as much about using antibiotics as they are about addressing concerns over resistance. You can refine existing antibiotics to increase their shelf life and effectiveness, but it’s as meaningful to be more judicious with the use of these drugs. They are very effective tools, but they lose this effectiveness with overuse. By increasing the use of other treatments and otherwise trying not to hit every bug with large doses of antibiotics, we can hopefully stave off the rise of resistant bacteria.
Like with many things the United States developed over the course of the 20th century, antibiotic use and infrastructure could benefit from new investments and research. It’s hard to see this getting much positive attention in the current climate. After all, Congress has been less than speedy in opening the purse for fighting Ebola.
The report was released in conjunction with other Executive Branch actions.
- A prize competition for developing a test to detect highly resistant bacterial infections. The National Institutes of Health and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority would coordinate the competition.
- A National Strategy for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria. The Strategy lists what pathogens are of special interest and the actions the government plans to take over the next five years.
- An Executive Order forming a National Task Force that will establish how the Federal Government will implement the National Strategy. The Task Force would obtain non-governmental expertise and input on the process through an Advisory Council set up under this Order.
For additional details on these actions, consult the Administration’s Fact Sheet.