Beating the Bugs

Article excerpt

U.S. task force unveils coordinated government plan to combat antimicrobial resistance

An interagency task force has mapped the government's response to the rising threat of antimicrobial resistance (AR), including implementation of "appropriate" antibiotic use policies. "Unless AR problems are detected as they emerge-and actions are taken quickly to contain them-the world may be soon faced with previously treatable diseases that have again become untreatable, as in the preantibiotic era," said the federal panel in releasing a 44-page public health action plan.

That pre-antibiotic era ended in the 1940s with the widespread availability of penicillin and the discovery of streptomycin. But scientists and clinicians fear it may be returning with several microbes rapidly becoming drug-resistant, such as those that cause pneumonia, ear infections, and meningitis (e.g., Streptococcus pneumoniae); skin, bone, lung, and bloodstream infections (e.g., Staphylococcus aureus); food-borne infections (e.g., Escherichia coli); and infections transmitted in health-care settings (e.g., enterococci and Klebsiella).

The four major components of the plan-surveillance, prevention and control, research, and product development-are broken down into 84 action items. Thirteen considered "essential" to addressing the problem were assigned the highest priority. The plan will be implemented incrementally as resources become available. …