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President Seeks Extra Funding to Fight Antibiotic-resistant Bacteria

The Obama administration hopes to double federal funding for research of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The President’s fiscal year (FY) 2016 Budget nearly doubles the amount of Federal funding for combating and preventing antibiotic resistance, to more than $1.2 billion, including more than $650 million for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

President Barack Obama , who will formally unveil his next budget blueprint on Feb 1, will ask Congress to increase discretionary spending by 7% above caps set by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (known as sequestration), according to The Hill.

One goal of the spending increase is to expand US investment in the development of antibacterial agents and diagnostics, and launch a major effort to characterize drug resistance.


Antibiotic resistance is growing worldwide, and causes an estimated 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths each year in the US alone, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Estimates of the effects of antibiotic-resistant infections on the US economy are as high as $20 billion in excess direct health care costs, and $35 billion in lost productivity from hospitalizations and sick days.

“The funding will improve antibiotic stewardship; strengthen antibiotic resistance risk assessment, surveillance, and reporting capabilities; and drive research innovation in the human health and agricultural sectors,” the White House said in a statement on January 27.

The Seattle Times wrote that the President is asking for money to fund research into new antibiotics and better monitoring of outbreaks, as well as address resistance at veterans’ and military hospitals. It also would fund efforts to prevent over-prescription of antibiotics.

In addition to the $650 million for the NIH, more than $280 million would go to the CDC to support antibiotic research and development, outbreak surveillance, and resistance monitoring, and strategies to overcome antibiotic resistance. An additional $47 million would go to the Food and Drug Administration to evaluate new drugs and monitor the use of antibiotics in livestock.

The budget would nearly quadruple antibiotic research and surveillance funding at the Department of Agriculture to $77 million, and increase funding at the Departments of Veterans Affairs to $85 million.

One key area of increased support involves development of advanced diagnostics that can quickly and accurately detect disease-causing bacteria, identify the presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and characterize resistance patterns. The budget also aims to support development of rapid point-of-care tests that can be used during a healthcare visit and significantly reduce unnecessary antibiotic use.

The Washington Post wrote that the proposal comes several months after Obama released a 5 y plan to curb antibiotic resistance and directs federal agencies to significantly increase their efforts to deal with the growing threat. The plan involves approaches to prevent and contain outbreaks of antibiotic-resistant infections, maintain the efficacy of current and new antibiotics, and develop and deploy next-generation diagnostics, antibiotics, vaccines, and other therapeutics.

Last September, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology released a 78-page report detailing practical steps the government can take to track resistant germs and develop novel antibiotics to treat bacterial infections.

According to the Washington Post, drug-resistant Clostridium difficile infection is one of the top threats, causing 250,000 infections and 14,000 deaths per year. Other top priorities include carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae and Campylobacter infections.

Scientists, doctors and other public health officials have increasingly warned that if antibiotic resistance continues to grow at the current rate, routine infections eventually could become life-threatening. Common modern surgeries, such as knee replacements and organ transplants, could again become dangerous. Vulnerable hospital patients and nursing-home residents could be at especially high risk for deadly infections.

“If we continue along the line of more and more microbes becoming antibiotic-resistant, we could be faced with a situation where we have untreatable infections,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the Washington Post. “Talk about setting back the clock. That’s bad news.”

Fauci said the government must have a significant role in developing antibiotics, given the lack of economic incentives for pharmaceutical companies to invest in such treatments. Unlike blockbuster drugs that are taken by millions of people for years, antibiotics are typically taken only for a week or 2 and lose their effectiveness the more they are used. These factors reduce financial incentive for companies to develop them.

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Kristine Novak

Kristine Novak

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About The Author:

Dr. Kristine Novak

Dr. Kristine Novak

Dr. Kristine Novak is a science writer and editor based in San Francisco. She has extensive experience covering gastroenterology, hepatology, immunology, oncology, clinical, and biotechnology research discoveries.

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