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The Obama Administration made headlines back in March when it announced an ambitious five-year plan of action designed to combat the deadly threat posed by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This plan of action, known as the National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, calls for both the public and private sector to come together to establish attainable goals and stringent guidelines concerning the tracking and use of antibiotics.
In recent developments, over 150 representatives from such diverse areas as medicine, pharmaceuticals and veterinary science to food production, farming and retail came together in Washington, D.C. earlier this week for the White House Forum on Antibiotic Stewardship to officially start the process of changing the way we see and administer antibiotics.
For those unfamiliar with the idea of antibiotic resistance, it essentially means that the more bacteria are exposed to antibiotics, the more likely they are to undergo a mutation or develop entirely new genes. This, in turn, can impede the ability of antibiotics to inhibit bacterial growth or even kill bacteria altogether.
To understand how significant this issue is, consider the words of Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“An increasing proportion of bacteria no longer respond to the drugs designed to kill them,” he wrote. “We can either work to improve antibiotic use and prevent infections, or watch as the clock turns back to a world where simple infections kill people.”
To put things in perspective, consider the following statistics:
Curiously, one of the key takeaways from this week’s forum concerning medicine was that it’s not just physician prescribing habits that need to change, but patient expectations as well, meaning they need to understand that antibiotics aren’t always necessary.
It’s highly encouraging to see real progress being made on this very important issue. Indeed, we’ve reported countless times on the danger posed by hospital-acquired infections and the need for hospital officials to start taking definitive measures to protect patients. Let’s hope this momentum continues.