Via The Globe and Mail: The war against superbugs: Can drug-resistant bacteria be beaten? Excerpt:
So what’s being done to fight MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), CRE (carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae), VRE (vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus) and other antibiotic-resistant superbugs that – fuelled by overuse and misuse in agriculture and human health care – threaten to force modern medicine back to an archaic time?
Around the world, governments are crafting legislation to accurately track and control how antibiotics are prescribed and taken, pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the development of new drugs, and even altering regulations around clinical trials to ensure potential antibiotics get tested faster. But will it be enough?
Preparing superbug strategies
Facing the real possibility of entering a post-antibiotic era this century, British Prime Minister David Cameron urged former Goldman Sachs chief Jim O’Neill last year to provide a global economist’s view of the problem: Concluding that drug-resistant superbugs could kill some 10 million people annually and cost up to $100-trillion by 2050, O’Neill called for a global fund to develop new antibiotics.
The European Union had already backed its 2011 Action Plan against Antimicrobial Resistance with combined investment of €650-million ($890-million) that includes both conservation and stewardship of existing antimicrobials (including bacteria-killing antibiotics and drugs that target a wider range of microbes such as fungi) and investment into new drugs.
In January, U.S. President Barack Obama committed an unprecedented $1.2-billion to fight antibiotic resistance: More than half of the money would be invested in new drug development, while giving the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention $280-million to halt the spread of drug-resistant superbugs.
On March 27, in a report that involved the departments of health, agriculture and defence, Obama elaborated: Along with investment in drug development, he would use the threat of financial penalties to encourage the reporting of antibiotic overprescribing by doctors who take part in Medicare or Medicaid.
For its part, Health Canada has just released a Federal Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance and Use, promising the creation of an antimicrobial resistance surveillance system, launching a $20-million, five-year project to help understand and mitigate antimicrobial resistance under the federal Genomics Research and Development Initiative, and committing to increase research investment through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research-funded Canada-Britain partnership and other CIHR-funded projects.
On March 31, Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada also released a report from the newly created Canadian Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System (CARSS), following a round-table discussion that included leaders from the food industry, veterinary and human medicine, pharmacy and an expert in drug-resistant microbes.
The report concluded that when it comes to superbug infection rates, there has been no significant improvement despite existing surveillance programs, and the surveillance picture in Canada is far from complete. The authors did say CARSS will provide a better understanding of the issues by “directing the expansion of surveillance activities to areas of greatest need.”
That said, experts worry the Canadian plan lacks the timelines and budget to have a meaningful impact.