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White House Plan to Address Antibiotic Resistance Falls Short

Sep 18, 2014

Today, an executive order and corresponding white house report was released outlining strategies to combat the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Public health researchers have long pushed for formal strategies to combat the development of superbugs—strains of bacteria that are resistant to several types of antibiotics—one of the nation’s fastest growing and most significant public health threats. After reviewing the report, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) expressed concern that the recommendations downplay the role of food animal production in antibiotic resistance and do little to protect public health.

“It’s encouraging to see a presidential executive order that recognizes the severity of the problem, but the recommendations and approach outlined today don’t inspire confidence,” says Keeve Nachman, PhD, director of the Food Production and Public Health Program at CLF. “Despite statements that suggest the committee believes antibiotic misuse in animal agriculture is an important contributor to the problem of antibiotic resistance, the recommendations for dealing with agricultural uses are not likely to lead to signficant change. Antibiotic use in food animal production is a leading contributor to antibiotic resistance among individuals and our communities. Nearly 80 percent of antibiotics sold in the U.S. are sold for food production.”

“The widespread misuse of antibiotics in food animal production reduces the effectiveness of drugs we heavily rely on to keep the public and our families safe,” said Robert Lawrence, MD, director of CLF. “An infection that is now considered relatively easy to treat could once again prove fatal should antibiotics continue to be misused in food animal production. Unfortunately, the recommendations of the commission seem to prioritize dealing with the problem after it’s happened rather than pursuing preventive measures designed to slow the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Preserving the effectiveness of the drugs we already use should help drive any recommendations on a national level.”

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future media contact: Natalie Wood-Wright at 443-824-1371 or