The Obama administration laid out steps on Thursday for reducing "the emergence and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria" and promoting the development of "new and next-generation antibiotics" as part of an executive order signed by the president.
The executive order creates a "Task Force for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria," which will be co-chaired by the secretaries of Health and Human Services and the departments of defense and agriculture. The task force has to submit a five-year national action plan to the president by February.
In response to the administration's new initiative, the Illinois Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) said "the order takes several important steps necessary to control the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria" but it "misses the opportunity to call for critical reforms in the agricultural sector that are essential to protect public health."
“President Obama gets an 'A' for tackling this problem from multiple angles,” Dev Gowda, an advocate with Illinois PIRG, said in a statement. “But in terms of addressing the biggest problem, the troubling overuse and misuse of antibiotics on large factory farms, the administration gets an incomplete ... Factory farms are playing a game of chicken with superbugs, and our ability to treat infections big and small may end up losing. More than 70 percent of antibiotics sold in the U.S. are given to livestock and poultry, which regularly get their helping of the drugs whether they’re sick or not.”
Illinois PIRG is urging "the administration to go further, to limit the use of antibiotics to when animals are truly sick or directly exposed to illness,” Gowda said. “The medical community, consumers, and even many in the food industry would likely stand and applaud such a move.”
Here's more from the Illinois PIRG's statement:
The Executive Order directs federal agencies to take several actions that will combat the accelerating spread of superbugs that are increasingly resistant to antibiotics and are more difficult, expensive and sometimes impossible to treat. These include:
- Asking agencies to strengthen surveillance of antibiotic use and resistance patterns in food-producing animals and, inter-species disease transmissibility
- Asking the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to propose new actions, as appropriate, that require hospitals and other healthcare facilities to implement robust antibiotic stewardship programs
These steps will greatly aid in assessing the extent of the problem and, while not tackling the largest overuse of antibiotics, will still result in some reductions.
Read Progress Illinois' past coverage about non-therapeutic antibiotic use in the conventional livestock industry here.