White House says it has a plan to stop superbugs. Here's how it will work.

Plan aims to reduce MRSA, C. diff, and CRE by at least 50% in next five years

The Obama administration on Friday released the first-ever White House plan aimed at slowing antibiotic resistance over the next five years through major investments and policy changes at a range of federal health agencies.

CDC estimates about two million people contract antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections each year, and about 23,000 of the infections prove fatal. 

Superbugs could kill more than cancer by 2050

Experts have said a broad approach is necessary, as antibiotic overuse among farms and hospitals has resulted in a problem that has quickly grown out of control, Reuters reports.

Over the next five years, the initiative aims to reduce the prevalence of the most deadly "superbug" infections. Specifically, the government aims to reduce rates of:

  • Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae infections by 60%;
  • Clostridium difficile infections by 50%; and
  • Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus by at least 50%.

Program details

The five-part plan calls for changes to surveillance and prescribing practices in hospitals and livestock, as well as increased collaboration with foreign health ministries and the World Health Organization.

Under the plan, hospitals are required to adopt measures to increase infection controls. Such measures include reducing antibiotic use in patients, as well as judicious washing of hands, hospital surfaces and medical equipment, according to Reuters.

Why superbugs are thriving in hospitals

In addition, physicians that work with Medicare and Medicaid will have to report their antibiotic prescribing patterns.

The measure also calls for:

  • CDC to increase screening of individuals who come to the U.S. from countries with high rates of multidrug resistant tuberculosis; and
  • FDA to take additional steps to curb use of medically important classes of antibiotics.

Moreover, the government aims to release two new antibiotic drugs and to fund a new diagnostic tool to help physicians determine whether a patient's infection is bacterial or viral, which would help with prescribing

The Obama administration says its plan is "a roadmap to guide the [n]ation in rising to the challenge of antibiotic resistance and potentially saving thousands of lives," according to a White House release. "Aggressive action will move the nation towards major reductions in the incidence of urgent and serious drug-resistant threats" (Abutaleb/Baertlein, Reuters, 3/26; Fox, NBC News, 3/27; White House release, 3/27).


Next in the Daily Briefing

Around the nation: March 30, 2015

Read now