White House unveils plan to fight antibiotic-resistant germs

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The White House on Friday announced a five-year plan to fight the threat posed by antibiotic-resistant bacteria amid fears that once-treatable germs could become deadly.

Repeated exposure to antibiotics can lead germs to become resistant to the drugs, so that they are no longer effective. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that drug-resistant bacteria cause 23,000 deaths and 2 million illnesses each year in the United States.

The World Health Organization said last year that bacteria resistant to antibiotics have spread to every part of the world and might lead to a future where minor infections could kill. Antibiotic resistance also threatens animal health, agriculture, and the economy.

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Antibiotic-Resistant Germs White House
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White House unveils plan to fight antibiotic-resistant germs
In this undated photo provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is one form of CRE bacteria, sometimes called ânightmare bacteria.â CRE bacteria is blamed for 600 deaths each year, and can withstand treatment from virtually every type of antibiotic. (Photo via CDC)
Enterococcus, Sem, Vancomycin Resistant Enterococci, Vre, Common Infections Caused By Enterococci Are Urinary Tract Infections And Wound Infections. (Photo By BSIP/UIG via Getty Images)
Scanning Electron Micrograph of Burkholderia cepacia. (Photo by: Media for Medical/UIG via Getty Images)
Methicillin Resistant Golden Staph Staphylococcus Aureus Mrsa, Scanning Electron Micrograph Colorized Sem, X 9560, The Line Represents Two Microns. These Bacteria Are Gram Positive Cocci And Facultative Anaerobes That Typically Gather In Clusters, As We See It Here. Golden Staph Is Responsible For Food Poisoning, Cutaneous Infections, Pneumonia, Toxic Shock Syndrome, . . . The Mrsa Is One Of The Most Frequent Multiresistant Bacterial Strains In Healthcare Facilities Hospital Acquired Infections. Golden Staph Staphylococcus Aureus > Staphylococcus > Staphylococcaceae > Bacillales > Firmicutes > Bacterium. This 2005 Scanning Electron Micrograph Sem Depicted Numerous Clumps Of Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus Bacteria, Commonly Referred To By The Acronym, Mrsa; Magnified 9560X. Recently Recognized Outbreaks, Or Clusters Of Mrsa In Community Settings Have Been Associated With Strains That Have Some Unique Microbiologic And Genetic Properties, Compared With The Traditional Hospital Based Mrsa Strains, Which Suggests Some Biologic Properties, E. G. , Virulence Factors Like Toxins, May Allow The Community Strains To Spread More Easily, Or Cause More Skin Disease. A Common Strain Named Usa300 0114 Has Caused Many Such Outbreaks In The United States. Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus Infections, E. G. , Bloodstream, Pneumonia, Bone Infections, Occur Most Frequently Among Persons In Hospitals And Healthcare Facilities, Including Nursing Homes, And Dialysis Centers. Those Who Acquire A Mrsa Infection Usually Have A Weakened Immune System, However, The Manifestation Of Mrsa Infections That Are Acquired By Otherwise Healthy Individuals, Who Have Not Been Recently Hospitalized, Or Had A Medical Procedure Such As Dialysis, Or Surgery, First Began To Emerged In The Mid To Late 1990's. These Infections In The Community Are Usually Manifested As Minor Skin Infectio (Photo By BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images)
Staphylococcus Aureus Sem, Resistant to Antibiotics Including Methicillin And Other More Common Antibiotics Such As Oxacillin, Penicillin And Amoxicillin, While 25 To 30 percent Of Population Is Colonized With Staph, Approximately 1 percent Is Colonized With Mrsa. (Photo By BSIP/UIG via Getty Images)
Methicillin Resistant Golden Staph Staphylococcus Aureus Mrsa, Scanning Electron Micrograph Colorized Sem, X 9560, The Line Represents Two Microns. These Bacteria Are Gram Positive Cocci And Facultative Anaerobes That Typically Gather In Clusters, As We See It Here. Golden Staph Is Responsible For Food Poisoning, Cutaneous Infections, Pneumonia, Toxic Shock Syndrome, . . . The Mrsa Is One Of The Most Frequent Multiresistant Bacterial Strains In Healthcare Facilities Hospital Acquired Infections. Golden Staph Staphylococcus Aureus > Staphylococcus > Staphylococcaceae > Bacillales > Firmicutes > Bacterium. This 2005 Scanning Electron Micrograph Sem Depicted Numerous Clumps Of Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus Bacteria, Commonly Referred To By The Acronym, Mrsa; Magnified 9560X. Recently Recognized Outbreaks, Or Clusters Of Mrsa In Community Settings Have Been Associated With Strains That Have Some Unique Microbiologic And Genetic Properties, Compared With The Traditional Hospital Based Mrsa Strains, Which Suggests Some Biologic Properties, E. G. , Virulence Factors Like Toxins, May Allow The Community Strains To Spread More Easily, Or Cause More Skin Disease. A Common Strain Named Usa300 0114 Has Caused Many Such Outbreaks In The United States. Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus Infections, E. G. , Bloodstream, Pneumonia, Bone Infections, Occur Most Frequently Among Persons In Hospitals And Healthcare Facilities, Including Nursing Homes, And Dialysis Centers. Those Who Acquire A Mrsa Infection Usually Have A Weakened Immune System, However, The Manifestation Of Mrsa Infections That Are Acquired By Otherwise Healthy Individuals, Who Have Not Been Recently Hospitalized, Or Had A Medical Procedure Such As Dialysis, Or Surgery, First Began To Emerged In The Mid To Late 1990's. These Infections In The Community Are Usually Manifested As Minor Skin Infectio (Photo By BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images)
Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus Mrsa Bacteria. This Scanning Electron Micrograph Depicts A Grouping Of Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus Mrsa Bacteria. These S. Aureus Bacteria Are Methicillin Resistant, And Are From One Of The First Isolates In The U. S. That Showed Increased Resistance To Vancomycin As Well. Note The Increase In Cell Wall Material Seen As Clumps On The Organisms’ Surface. (Photo By BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images)
Antibiotic drugs being tested to see how resistant they are to bacteria
BOSTON - APRIL 8: A scientist uses a 96-well plate to test different concentrations of nano particle treatment for antibiotic resistant bacteria inside the Egan Research Center at Northeastern University in Boston on April 8, 2014. The stronger the glow, the stronger the bacteria are. (Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
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In an interview with WebMD, President Barack Obama said over-prescribing antibiotics is a serious problem.

"Studies have consistently shown that a lot of America's antibiotic use is unnecessary," he said. He said he hopes his plan will create a system to show real-time rates of antibiotic use and where cases of drug resistance are being reported. "If we can see where these drugs are being over-prescribed, we can target our interventions where they're needed most."

The White House's overall goal is to prevent and contain outbreaks of infections at home and abroad. It's aiming to maintain the ability of current antibiotics to fight illnesses and develop new treatments.

The plan is the result of an order Obama signed in September forming a task force on the issue. Obama also has asked Congress to nearly double its funding to fight antibiotic resistance to $1.2 billion.

Critics say they wish the White House would go further, particularly in terms of the antibiotics used in animals processed for meat. The Food and Drug Administration has already successfully encouraged many drug companies to phase out the use of antibiotics used for animal growth promotion, but advocacy groups have called on the agency to limit other uses of animal antibiotics as well, such as for disease prevention when holding animals in crowded conditions.

"The plan continues to allow the routine feeding of antibiotics to animals that live in the crowded conditions endemic to industrial farms," said Mae Wu, health attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "Our government should be taking steps to reduce antibiotics to protect our health, rather than protecting poor industry practices."

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