The Obama administration unveiled a plan today to fight the spread of antibiotic-resistant "superbugs." The goal is to prevent the proliferation of aggressive bacteria responsible for 23,000 deaths and 2 million illnesses every year, the Associated Press reports.
The five-year plan is a response to the country's growing reliance on antibiotics for medicinal purposes and in the food industry. It outlines several goals, which include slowing the emergence of superbugs, strengthening surveillance and tracking efforts of such germs, accelerating scientific research, and improving international collaboration and communication.
Eliminate serious threats by 2020
"Studies have consistently shown that a lot of America's antibiotic use is unnecessary," President Obama said in an interview with WebMD. "If we can see where these drugs are being over-prescribed, we can target our interventions where they're needed most."
Critics of the plan say it doesn't do enough to challenge the use of antibiotics in livestock, The Washington Post reports. In 2013, the FDA created guidelines for farms aiming to phase out the use of certain antibiotics in food production, but the guidelines were suggestions rather than rules. The plan announced today says the FDA and USDA will create "educational outreach materials" and test and validate "alternatives to traditional uses of antibiotics in agriculture."
The requested budget for the plan is $1.2 billion — nearly double the current federal budget dedicated to fighting superbugs, the AP reports. The Obama administration expressed concern that, if nothing is done, these strains of bacteria could eventually render life-saving antibiotics useless. The White House hopes to see a significant reduction in the number of serious threats posed by supergerms by 2020.