CDC allocates $67 million to battle antibiotic resistance

Stack of pills
Stack of pills

Robert Kneschke

Federal health officials this week announced a financial boost for nationwide efforts to combat antibiotic resistance.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Jun 27 it would provide $67 million to health departments across the country to help them detect and identify antibiotic-resistant bacteria more quickly. The money will be distributed to health departments in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, and to local health departments in six major metropolitan areas (New York City, Chicago, Houston, the District of Columbia, Los Angeles County, and Philadelphia).

With the money, state health departments will be able to test for multidrug-resistant "superbugs" like carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae and get closer to whole-genome sequencing of intestinal bacteria, including Salmonella and Shigella. This will enable faster identification and response to outbreaks caused by dangerous bacteria.

In addition, the funding will support seven regional laboratories with the ability to rapidly detect and identify emerging antibiotic-resistant threats, conduct special threat assessments, and track changes in resistance. The labs, which will coordinate their efforts with state health departments and the CDC, will be located in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Washington, New York, Maryland, Tennessee, and Texas.

"Having this antibiotic resistance lab network, with regional labs that work together with the CDC, is fantastic," Ruth Lynfield, MD, Minnesota state epidemiologist and medical director at the Minnesota Department of Health, told CIDRAP News. "That is something that people have wanted for a long time."

Regional labs seen as critical

Lynfield said that enhancing the ability to detect and characterize antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and get a sense of what is emerging, is critical. "If you can't detect, and be able to follow trends, it really is challenging to get a sense of what the problem is and how effective your interventions are," Lynfield said.

The seven labs, part of the CDC's Antibiotic Resistance Solutions Initiative, will provide additional confirmation testing to state health departments in their region, as well as additional technical support in the event of an outbreak.

Creating a regional lab network to strengthen the nation's ability to detect resistant strains of bacteria was one of the goals of the Obama administration's National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria. That plan was issued in 2015.

The CDC said the funding will also expand the capability to track and protect patients from healthcare-associated infections, strengthen state ability to track foodborne diseases, and respond to the growing threat of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea. Earlier this month, CDC researchers reported that the sexually transmitted disease was becoming increasingly resistant to the only recommended treatment.

The CDC has made antibiotic resistance and stewardship a major priority in recent years. The agency estimates that antibiotic-resistant infections are responsible for 23,000 deaths and 2 million illnesses each year. Congress appropriated $160 million in fiscal year 2016 for the agency to fight antibiotic resistance.

See also:

Jul 27 CDC news release

CDC Antibiotic Solutions Initiative

March 2015 National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

Jul 15 CIDRAP News story "Gonorrhea growing more resistant to standard treatment"

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