The White House unveiled a new national strategy on Thursday to combat the rising threat of antibiotic resistance. Resistance develops as a result of repeated exposure to antibiotics, both through overprescription by doctors and overuse in farming. As a result, an increasing number of infections cannot be treated or cured. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, bacterial resistance to antibiotics is the cause of 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths annually.
The strategy outlines a five-year plan to regulate antibiotic prescriptions in hospitals, increase antibiotic surveillance, and develop a new arsenal of vaccines and antibiotics. Critics wished the plan had done more to combat antibiotic use on animals in the agricultural industry.
“What one sees is the possibility of having infections against which we have no remaining antibiotics,” said John Holdren, Obama’s assistant for science and technology. “There is the potential for runaway spread of infection, which ultimately as they go to a very large scale could undermine social stability.”