Obama Issues Executive Order To Combat Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

President Obama issued a new executive order that addresses the dangerous increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The Inquisitr reported previously that the World Health Organization (WHO) urgently warned health officials that a “post-antibiotic era” is almost upon is. Now, the Obama administration, via the executive order, is demanding increased efforts to address the deadly problem. Each year, 23,000 deaths and 2 million illnesses can be traced to antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections, according to CNN.

President Obama’s executive order establishes a new inter-agency task force that is charged with creating an effective strategy to nationally combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria. President Obama’s executive order creates a Presidential Advisory Council, which will be made up of non-government experts in antibiotic-resistant bacteria and safe practices. The executive order dictates that the task force assigned to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria will be co-chaired by the secretaries of Health & Human Services, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Agriculture.

“We are clearly in a fight against… bacteria where no permanent treatment is possible,” said Dr. John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and assistant to the President, according to CNN.

On Thursday, the Obama administration released the “National Strategy on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria,” in line with the executive order. The five-year plan aims to prevent or contain antibiotic-resistant bacteria outbreaks. The plan also addresses the need to develop better, faster tests and a new generation of antibiotics and vaccines. Hospitals will be expected to do a better job with antibiotic stewardship, according to the executive order. Americans use more antibiotics than other industrialized nations, The New York Times reported.

As part of the national plan, a $20 million prize will be offered for the development of the faster bacterial tests. The faster tests are important because identification of bacteria is crucial to making sure the proper antibiotic is used. Faster, more accurate tests are expected to prolong the duration that existing antibiotics will remain useful in medicine.

Of particular concern, according to some experts, is finding alternatives to antibiotics in agriculture. Some farmers and experts urge officials to also consider more sustainable livestock practices.

The United States uses far more antibiotics in livestock than other nations, according to The New York Times, which also stated that livestock in the U.S. are given around six times the amount of antibiotics that are given to farm animals in Norway and Denmark.

More than 70 percent of antibiotics in the U.S. are given to livestock, and many of those animals are completely healthy, The New York Times reported. Some animals are given antibiotics to make them grow faster. Though agricultural uses are addressed in the order and the plan, Dr. James Johnson, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Minnesota, said that the section on agricultural antibiotic use in the federal report reads as though it was written by someone in the meat industry.

Johnson called the report, “Really disappointing. Actually, depressing.”

“Success will require a sea change. Doctors, farmers and agribusiness, health systems and the public all need to think totally differently about antibiotics,” a former Food and Drug Administration Chief Scientist explained in regards to President Obama’s executive order. “They are precious resources and we must reduce their inappropriate use. Better diagnosis and stronger infection control practices can make a big difference right now.”