National Action Plan For Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Calls For More Judicious Use

Last fall the Obama Administration took several steps to combat the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.  The steps included a report from the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology, a National Strategy for combating antibiotic resistance, and the establishment of a government-wide Task Force to determine how to implement that strategy.

Earlier today the chairs of that task force, the Secretaries of Defense, Agriculture, and Health and Human Services, announced the release of the National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria. It is worth noting that the President has doubled the amount of money for fighting antibiotic resistance in his latest budget request.

The National Action Plan is focused on activities the country should take over the next five years to achieve the goals of the National Strategy.  The Task Force must provide the President with status updates on an annual basis, and the President’s Advisory Council on Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria will advise the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department on the programs recommended by the National Action Plan.

Speaking of that Advisory Council, the HHS Department is seeking nominations. The Council will be a mix of public and governmental members (only the public members will vote) representing a variety of perspectives in the fields of public health, agriculture, and biomedicine.  Nominations will be accepted until April 29th, so submit them soon.

For me, the most interesting challenge in the National Action Plan is to reduce antibiotics use in the agriculture industry.  While consumer demand has driven some companies to reduce antibiotics in their food, antibiotics-free food is still a small portion of the total market.  The hardest challenge may well be establishing the kind of surveillance and reporting mechanisms to capture the best possible picture of current antibiotics uses.

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