White house plan to fight 'superbugs' falls short of expectations

Posted Mar 27, 2015 by Karen Graham
The White House is expected to release an ambitious and comprehensive plan that would slow the deadly growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria over the next five years. The plan will not only include huge monetary investments, but policy changes as well.
This inoculated MacConkey agar culture plate cultivated colonial growth of Gram-negative  small rod-...
This inoculated MacConkey agar culture plate cultivated colonial growth of Gram-negative, small rod-shaped and facultatively anaerobic Klebsiella pneumoniae bacteria.
The White House has said the plan would work toward completely controlling the spread of "superbugs" by 2020, while the policy changes are supposed to include an array of federal agencies, according to the report reviewed by Reuters.
While the proposed plan takes up 60-pages and covers the subject of antibiotic resistance fully, many scientists and lawmakers are already questioning whether the plan will be strong enough to make any significant progress in controlling the spread of antibiotic-resistant pathogens.
The goals of the administration's plan
The main goal of the plan is to reduce the incidence rates of the most deadly "superbug" infections within five years with a huge investment in new diagnostic tools, antibiotics as well as protocols for the use of antibiotics. Other tactics in the plan include better surveillance, as well as a change in prescribing practices in livestock production and in hospitals. All these practices will also be coordinated with foreign health ministries and the World health Organization (WHO).
The White House is saying a broad-based approach to combating the high rate of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections is needed because of the over-use of antibiotics, from hospitals to factory farms. Saying the problem has grown "out-of-control," the Obama administration is proposing doubling the government's investment in antibiotic resistance to $1.2 billion.
Goals of individual agencies
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will be given the chore of reducing the rates of the most deadly and widespread diseases. This will include cutting "the incidence of Clostridium difficile infections by 50 percent, reducing carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) infections by 60 percent and lowering Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bloodstream infections by at least 50 percent," according to the plan.
Hospitals will be expected to improve upon infection control procedures, such as hand-washing, and better cleaning of hospital surfaces and equipment, as well as reducing the use of unnecessary antibiotics in patients. Doctors working with Medicare and Medicaid health plans will be required to document their prescribing of antibiotics, especially when they are used to treat non-bacterial infections, such as the common cold.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is to take "further steps to curtail the use of medically important classes of antibiotics for growth promotion in animals raised for human consumption."
Sujatha Jahagirdar, program director at consumer group U.S. PIRG Stop Antibiotics Overuse, says that Obama gets an "A" on many of the issues laid out in the plan, but gets an "Incomplete" when it comes to "addressing the biggest problem, the troubling overuse and misuse of antibiotics on large factory farms." This one issue has critics, including lawmakers, physicians and scientists dismissing the plan.
A "thumbs up" must be given to companies like McDonald's and Nestlé, who have made major policy changes to curb the use of antibiotics in their food chains. And it is interesting that the plan has come out just a few days after Digital Journal reported that Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), had reintroduced legislation that would restrict the use of eight classes of antibiotics for medical use on humans only rather than for general use on livestock. The White House plan may prove to be the incentive needed to get the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA) passed after all.