US Gathers 350 Commitments in 33 Countries to Fight Antibiotic Resistance

Megan Brooks

September 24, 2019

Since its inception 1 year ago, the US government's Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Challenge has received nearly 350 commitments from 33 countries to implement specific actions to combat antibiotic resistance, US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar announced September 23 during the 74th United Nations General Assembly in New York City.

Global commitments to fight AMR have come from pharmaceutical and health insurance companies, the food industry, medical professionals, healthcare systems, government health officials, nongovernmental organizations, and others.

The AMR Challenge "marks a historic step and sets a promising precedent," Azar said at an event co-hosted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wellcome Trust, the American Society for Microbiology, the Antimicrobial Resistance Fighter Coalition, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Foundation.

"The success of the Challenge over the past year demonstrates what is possible, in the relatively short term, when we have real commitment to the fight against this pressing public health threat," Azar said.

The AMR Challenge, led by HHS and the CDC, was launched 1 year ago at the UN General Assembly, as reported by Medscape Medical News.

From Aetna to Taco Bell

The committed organizations represent more than 10,000 healthcare facilities around the world. Nearly 44% of commitments focus on improving infection prevention and control. "We saw over 225 commitments to the AMR Challenge made in the US alone, spanning organizations across all 50 states," Azar noted.

He cited Premier Inc as one example. This large US healthcare alliance of about 4000 hospitals and 175,000 healthcare providers has reduced the rate of healthcare-associated Clostridioides difficile infections by roughly 46% across more than 500 hospitals since 2015. They did it through "coaching calls, site visits, webinars, and a new website focused on AMR," Azar said.

Nearly half of the commitments focus on improving antibiotic use. For example, Aetna, a healthcare network that includes 1.2 million healthcare professionals and more than 5700 hospitals, has partnered with state health departments to successfully reduce the number of overprescribers by 15%.

More than 55 pharmaceutical and biotech groups committed to develop or provide access to products that will prevent and treat resistant infections.

Forty-seven organizations made commitments related to safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene. Notably, the nongovernmental organization World Vision has committed $100 million by 2021 in 35 countries in Africa to improve water and sanitation services in rural healthcare facilities, "helping to curb the spread of antimicrobial resistant bacteria and fungi," Azar said.

Major food and animal organizations have also joined the fight, Azar reported, including McDonalds and Yum! Brands (the parent company of KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell), which have pledged to significantly reduce antibiotic use in the poultry and beef that they use for their products.

"While these are certainly steps in the right direction, our work is only beginning," said Azar.

In a landmark 2013 report on the rising, lethal threat of antibiotic resistance, the CDC described an infectious disease landscape in which 2 million people in the United States develop an antibiotic-resistant infection each year and at least 23,000 die from it.

These data will be updated later this year with release of the second Antibiotic Resistance Threats report, "giving us a clear picture of the significant work that is still needed to prevent resistant infections and stop the spread of germs," said Azar.

"Continuing our fight against AMR with the same vigor we've seen over the last year will lead to lower rates of infection, lower healthcare costs, reduced human suffering, and lives saved," he concluded.

More information on the AMR Challenge is available online.

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