December 2, 2016

Minnesota Agencies Reveal Plan to Fight Antibiotic Resistance

Four agencies in Minnesota have launched a five year plan to fight antibiotic resistance. The partners are in public health, health care, agribusiness, and environmental protection. They are the Minnesota Department of Health, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Board of Animal Health, and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. They will work together to “promote judicious antibiotic use and stewardship in order to reduce the impact of resistant bacteria.”

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The widespread use of antibiotics over the past few decades has caused an alarming increase in antibiotic-resistant infections. Bacteria are able to develop resistance to antibiotics through natural selection. While the effectiveness of medically important antibiotics has been decreasing, the rate of antibiotic resistant bacteria has been growing.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that antibiotic-resistant bacteria cause 2,000,000 illnesses in people and 23,000 deaths in this country every year. Options for treatments of these infections are more toxic with more and more harmful side effects.

Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dr. Ed Ehlinger said in a statement, “unless we can find ways to preserve the effectiveness of the antibiotics we have and slow the development of resistance to new antibiotics, we may again see increased numbers of illness and death due to our inability to control bacterial infections. Antibiotics are critical public health tools. Their effectiveness can and must be preserved. This can be done through judicious use and diligent stewardship.”

The four agencies have formed the One Health Minnesota Antibiotic Stewardship Collaborative. Participants include representatives from universities, human and animal health professional associations and boards, human health care systems and organizations, agricultural associations and cooperatives, and human and animal pharmaceutical companies.

This Collaborative is focusing on the idea that the health of people, animals, and the environment are all interconnected. Antibiotic use and abuse affects every part of the world. The group wants to improve human antibiotic stewardship by developing a roadmap and incentives for healthcare facilities, and to improve animal antibiotic stewardship efforts by supporting data collection on antibiotic use, the veterinary feed directive, and lab testing.

You can aid this collaboration by following a few suggestions. Avoid infections by washing your hands properly and getting recommended vaccines. Don’t ask for antibiotics if your doctor says you don’t need them. Don’t save antibiotics for the next illness. Always take all of the antibiotics in your prescription. Do not share or use leftover antibiotics.

The National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS), which was established in 1996, is another collaborative project of state and local public heath departments along with the FDA, CDC, and USDA. It tracks changes in the antimicrobial susceptibility of intestinal bacteria found in ill persons, retail meals, and food animals.

Antibiotic use in food producing animals is a serious issue. Food poisoning outbreaks caused by bacteria that are resistant to medically important antibiotics have been increasing in recent years. The Salmonella outbreak linked to roasted pork in Washington state in 2015, for instance, had two outbreaks strains that were both antibiotic resistant. And the Salmonella Poona outbreak linked to imported cucumbers that ended in March 2016 included one strain that was resistant to tetracycline.

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