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National plan attacks antibiotic-resistant infections

April 23, 2015
by Pamela Tabar, Editor-in-Chief
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VRE bacteria

The war is on against antibiotic-resistant microbes, and healthcare providers and agencies need to step up conjoined efforts to slow the spread of resistant infections while developing better ways to detect and kill pathogens, according to a detailed national action plan released by the White House.

The National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria outlines steps for implementing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) National Strategy on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria and addressing the policy recommendations of a President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology report, Combating Antibiotic Resistance

Historic over-reliance on certain types of antibiotics, unnecessary prescribing and poor patient adherence to taking prescribed antibiotics have  contributed to the development of resistant strains of bacteria. Drug-resistant bacterial infections—including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae and vancomycin-resistant enterococci—cause more than 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths in the United States each year.

“Antibiotics have been a critical public health tool since the discovery of penicillin in 1928, saving the lives of millions of people around the world,” notes the action plan report. “Today, however, the emergence of drug resistance in bacteria is reversing the miracles of the past 80 years, with drug choices for the treatment of many bacterial infections becoming increasingly limited, expensive, and, in some cases, nonexistent.”

Long-term care communities have good reason to be concerned about antibiotic resistance, because their residents live in close proximity to one other, interact daily with both caregivers and each other, and often have immune systems that are weakened by age and chronic conditions.

Under the national action plan, multiple agencies are tackling five key goals over the next five years:

  1. Prevent the spread of resistant infections and slow the emergence of new resistant strains.
  2. Strengthen national One-Health surveillance efforts to combat resistance.
  3. Advance development and use of rapid and innovative diagnostic tests for identification and characterization of resistant bacteria.
  4. Accelerate basic and applied research and development for new antibiotics, other therapeutics and vaccines.
  5. Improve international collaboration and capacities for antibiotic-resistance prevention, surveillance, control and antibiotic research and development.

The CDC is teaming up with the National Institutes of Health to strengthen surveillance, improve diagnostic testing and bolster national and international collaboration on detection and infection prevention efforts.

The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) supports the action, which focuses on the growing problem of medication-resistant bacteria and the ways people contribute to the overuse and inapproproate use of antibiotics. The association also stresses the importance of developing new tests and types of antibiotics to stay ahead of the curve while training more healthcare professionals in antimicrobial stewardship.

Without strong and cooperative efforts to curb microbial resistance and develop new ways to kill bacteria, the deaths attributable to durg-resisant srains could soar to 10 million worldwide by 2050, warns a recent APIC report.

Related articles:

Infection control and the culture of safety
Hospital infection control affects elderly life span
Drug-resistant infections could rise unchecked without stewardship