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antimicrobial resistance

Racing for alternatives in the age of antibiotic resistance

This week is World Antibiotic Awareness week and ‘Get Smart About Antibiotics’ week. Learn more about how USDA works to ensure antibiotics remain effective to treat both people and animals when necessary and the alternatives available to traditional antibiotics.”

For billions of years, microbes such as bacteria and viruses have been in a struggle for survival in the face of naturally occurring antimicrobial substances. This struggle has continued in nature and into human society, where humans, plants, animals, and microbes themselves constantly ward off disease-causing microbes. The plight for adaptation and survival is not unlike the Red Queen’s race in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, where it takes all of the running one can do to remain in the same place. 

What's the Alternative?

We know that antibiotics are those miracle drugs Alexander Fleming stumbled upon in the 1920’s when his lab was left untidy. Since that happy accident, scientists have identified additional naturally-occurring antibiotics and developed synthetic drugs to add to our arsenal to combat bacterial infections.

So we’ve had bacteria, through their need to survive, learning how to develop resistance to naturally occurring antibiotics in the environment for eons; long before we started purposefully adding more antibiotics to the mix. So though we need antibiotics, it would be really nice if we could find ways to rely on them less.

USDA’s Collaborative and Active Engagement in the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System is Twenty Years Old and Going Strong

Today kicked off “Get Smart about Antibiotics” week in the United States and the World Health Organization’s World Antibiotic Awareness Week in 2016. During this week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and its other federal partners want to remind families and communities about the importance of responsible antibiotic use in both humans and animals, to help reduce the development of resistant bacteria. This week, we also celebrate the 20th anniversary of the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS).  Through NARMS, USDA, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collaborate on everything relating to antimicrobial resistant bacteria.   Since 1996, USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) have been active participants in this combined federal surveillance program.

So, what is antimicrobial resistance?  As you might recall, in 1928, Dr. Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, a drug that revolutionized the treatment of bacterial infections. In the years following, penicillin and the discovery and therapeutic use of other antibiotics, we have relied on antibiotics to treat and cure a variety of illnesses - in both humans and animals, across the globe. The use of these drugs has aided in the development of resistant strains of bacteria. Unfortunately, this development means that some previously treatable forms of bacterial infections are now resistant to the antibiotics that were designed to treat them. It is estimated that the decrease in effectiveness of antibiotics, results in more than two million U.S. cases of antibiotic resistant infections, annually. Some of these types of infections might require longer hospital stays and are more costly to treat successfully. 

USDA Launches a One Stop Shop for its "One Health" Approach to Zoonotic Threats

At USDA, we use a One Health approach that embraces the idea that problems arising at the intersection of the health of humans, animals, and the environment can be solved only through a coordinated multidisciplinary approach.  This approach embraces the idea that a disease problem impacting the health of humans, animals, and the environment only can be solved through improved communication, cooperation, and collaboration across disciplines and institutions.

Because the One Health work that we do spans across many USDA agencies, we are launching a centralized web portal page to better help our stakeholders and the public better access our information.   This page features USDA’s collective body of work on antimicrobial resistance (AMR), avian influenza and swine influenza as well as other One Health resources.

Proactive Efforts by U.S. Federal Agencies Enable Early Detection of New Antibiotic Resistance

Just over a year ago, President Obama released a National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria. As part of that plan, he also charged the Department of Defense (DoD), Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) with co-chairing a Presidential Advisory Council on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria (Advisory Council). In the past year, our three agencies and the Council have held numerous stakeholder meetings, made new discoveries, and undertaken new research to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics.

In recent weeks, our three agencies have made some important discoveries regarding antibiotic resistance in the United States. Earlier this week, the Department of Defense notified stakeholders that its Multidrug-resistant Organism Repository and Surveillance Network (MRSN) at the Walter Reed Institute of Research had identified the first colistin-resistant mcr-1 E. coli in a person in the United States. A USDA and HHS search for colistin-resistant bacteria in food animals, retail meats and people also has found colistin-resistant E. coli in a single sample from a pig intestine.

A Banner Year for Leadership: 5 Ways We're Answering America's Agricultural and Environmental Challenges

USDA scientists work 365 days to provide safe and sustainable food, water, and natural resources in the face of a changing climate and uncertain energy sources. To recognize the contribution that agricultural science and research makes in our daily lives, this week’s “Banner Year” series features stories from 2015 that show the successes that USDA science and statistical agencies made for us all.

In 2015, we’ve seen agriculture and natural resources at the crossroads of the world’s most critical problems: establishing sustainable food production, providing clean and abundant water, responding to climatic variability, developing renewable energy, improving human health, and strengthening food safety.  The immensity and diversity of the difficulties Americans face allowed USDA an excellent opportunity to once again demonstrate our ability and capacity to rise and meet the greatest of challenges.

Here are five stories from 2015 to review:

Stewardship, Antibiotics and Veterinary Medical Ethics - A Call for Action

Stewardship is an ethic that embodies the responsible planning and management of resources. And as World Antibiotics Awareness Week comes to a close today, it’s important to note that the Veterinary Medicine profession too has a role to play in the use of antibiotics for animal health. This profession has ethical responsibilities as well as a vital role managing the use of antibiotics in food animal production that requires veterinary medical scientific training and knowledge.

Stewardship is a matter of principle; all veterinarians are expected to adhere to a progressive code of ethical conduct known as the Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics (PVME). The PVME comprises the following Principles published and constantly under review by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Alternatives to Antibiotics to Keep Food Animals Healthy

Antibiotics are lifesavers. We depend on them to treat bacterial infections and diseases such as pneumonia, bronchitis and strep throat, as well as ear infections and infected wounds. In response to U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidance, veterinarians and producers are moving toward more judicious antibiotic use in food animals, while keeping them healthy and ensuring that our food supply remains safe.

This is especially important because certain bacterial strains have become resistant to some of the current antibiotics used to treat infections in humans and animals, escalating the need worldwide to find and develop alternatives to antibiotics.

USDA Embraces One Health Approach for Solving Problems Associated with Antimicrobial Resistance

This week is World Antibiotic Awareness Week and USDA remains focused on prolonging the usefulness of a very precious resource—antibiotics.  These medicines successfully treat and prevent infectious diseases and must be used responsibly to remain effective to all who need them.  USDA also recognizes that antimicrobial resistance, or the ability of bacteria and other microbes to survive the effects of an antibiotic and then proliferate, is a serious threat to both animal health and human health.

Earlier this year, the World Health Assembly developed a global action plan to combat antimicrobial resistance (AMR).  The five objectives of the plan are: Increasing awareness, strengthening research and surveillance, reducing infections, optimizing antimicrobial use, and ensuring sustainable investments to contain AMR.

Putting Antibiotic Stewardship into Action

The White House on June 2 convened a national forum to seek action on the problem of anti-microbial resistance. The development of antibiotics was one of the most significant medical achievements of the last century, and has helped to save millions of lives. But their overuse or misuse has resulted in the rise of bacteria strains that are resistant to antibiotics.

The White House has unveiled a National Action Plan designed to advance the appropriate use of antibiotics in food animals as well as promote collaborations among partners in medicine, veterinary medicine, and public health. This is consistent with a “One Health” approach that embraces the idea that a disease problem impacting the health of humans, animals, and the environment can only be solved through improved communication, cooperation, and collaboration across disciplines and institutions. USDA, which helped develop the National Action Plan, was pleased to join our many Federal partners and continue our work with the agriculture industry at the forum.