Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia M. Burwell could not be more succinct in what she wants out of the next two days. She penned a letter to the leadership of the Presidential Advisory Council on Combatting Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria about the need to focus today and tomorrow during the group’s meetings in Washington D.C.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell
Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell
Burwell clearly sees the need for new therapies to treat new infections and wants to know how to generate more interest in new antimicrobial drugs and novel alternatives. She asks the leaders to focus on two questions: 1. “What is the best way to incentivize the development of therapeutics (including alternatives to antibiotics), rapid diagnostics, and vaccines for both human and animals while maximizing the result on investment, and still encouraging appropriate stewardship, and access to products?” 2. “Given the breadth and depth of the Action Plan in a limited resource environment, how should the U.S. government prioritize its investments for maximal impact in reducing antibiotic resistance, especially in the context of a One Health approach?” The Presidential Advisory Council on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria is a year old. Information on registration for the meetings today and tomorrow including webcast and dial-in access can be found here. More than 2 million antibiotic resistant infections, including those caused by food borne illnesses, occur each year, according to he Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An estimated 23,000 deaths annually are the result of antibiotics coming up short against infections. It’s a problem that could raise health costs by $20 billion to $35 billion. A report from the CDC in 2013 discussed foodborne pathogens and antibiotic resistance:

  • The germs that contaminate food can be resistant because of the use of antibiotics in people and in food animals.
  • For some germs, like the bacteria Salmonella and Campylobacter, it is primarily the use of antibiotics in food animals that increases resistance.
  • We can prevent many of these resistant infections with careful antibiotic use and by keeping Salmonella and other bacteria out of the food we eat.
  • Recent outbreaks in 20112011-2012, and 2013 of multi-resistant Salmonella traced to ground beef and poultry show how animal and human health are linked.

Healthcare facilities including hospitals and long-term care facilities are often where the deaths from complications from antibiotic-resistant infections occur, according HHS. (To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)