On the 18th September, President Barack Obama signed an Executive Order directing key Federal departments and agencies to take action to combat the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The Administration also released its National Strategy on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria. In addition, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) has released a related report on Combating Antibiotic Resistance. The Executive Order directs Federal departments and agencies to implement the National Strategy and address the PCAST report. The National Strategy provides a five-year plan for enhancing domestic and international capacity to: prevent and contain outbreaks of antibiotic-resistant infections; maintain the efficacy of current and new antibiotics; and develop and deploy next-generation diagnostics, antibiotics, vaccines, and other therapeutics. The PCAST report provides actionable recommendations from the President’s Council, in consultation with experts from the public and private sectors, for combating antibiotic resistance.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), antibiotic-resistant infections are associated with 23,000 deaths and 2 million illnesses in the United States each year. Estimates of annual impact of antibiotic-resistant infections on the U.S. economy vary but have ranged as high as $20 billion in excess direct health care costs, and as much as $35 billion in lost productivity from hospitalizations and sick days. And the problem is worsening. Some bacterial infections are almost, or entirely, untreatable because the causal agents have acquired resistance to all of the antibiotics that can be deployed against them. Without effective antibiotics, we will no longer be able to treat bacterial infections reliably and rapidly. Antibiotics are critically important for many modern medical interventions, including chemotherapy, complex surgery, and organ transplantation. Controlling the development and spread of antibiotic resistance is a top national security and public health priority for the Obama Administration. Taken together, the Executive Order, National Strategy, and PCAST report will significantly help the Federal government curb the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, potentially saving thousands of lives.