As early as 1945, scientists discovered a pathogen that had developed resistance to penicillin. Since that time, antibiotic resistance has risen dramatically, posing a threat to public health, increasing medical costs, and fueling a resurgence in pathogens that were considered under control.
Fighting the problem of antibiotic resistance will require a better, more coordinated system of surveillance, as well as an increased effort to prolong the effectiveness of existing antibiotics and to develop new drugs, says a new report from the Institute of Medicine's (IOM) Forum on Emerging Infections. The report summarizes the findings and opinions of participants at a recent workshop, and outlines options that policy-makers, pharmaceutical industry leaders, health officials, clinicians, researchers, and others may consider to combat this problem.
Though health officials have long argued the need for better surveillance, no country has developed a reliable, comprehensive system for tracking drug resistance, the report says. Efforts to understand its full impact are stifled by uncoordinated efforts to track across local, national, and international jurisdictions, as well as a lack of common standards among laboratories and health organizations for collecting data. An effective national surveillance program should allow broad access to information and data gathered from all parties, integrate information from participating laboratories into a national database, and distinguish cases of drug resistance occurring in hospitals from those found in the local community. On an international scale, policy-makers need to evaluate whether it is desirable to give more authority to the United Nations' World Health Organization or to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to lead a global surveillance effort.