Antibiotic resistance in 2016: 5 biggest developments

Bacteria growing resistant to antibiotics has been a looming threat for years — resistance to penicillin showed up before the 1950s, and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus was first discovered in the U.S. in 1968, according to a piece in Pharmacy & Therapeutics. However, 2016 just may have been the year the tipping point in the crisis was reached.


The following are five of the biggest happenings in the realm of antibiotic resistance in the last year, listed chronologically.

1. The CDC and the American College of Physicians kicked off 2016 by publishing new clinical guidelines in January that address antibiotic stewardship and physician mishandling of antibiotic testing and prescription.

2. A group of organizations including the National Quality Forum and the CDC released a guide titled "Antibiotic Stewardship in Acute Care: A Practical Playbook" in May as a way to help hospitals implement successful programs. A survey found less than 40 percent of hospitals had implemented seven core elements of a successful stewardship program.

3. Shortly thereafter, news broke that a strain of E. coli resistant to colistin — the antibiotic of last resort — was found in the U.S. in a human for the first time. This discovery prompted CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, to say the "end of the road isn't very far away for antibiotics."

Since that infection, at least three other such strains have been discovered in the U.S.

4. CMS and the Joint Commission took action in 2016 to fight antibiotic resistance. In June, CMS released a proposed rule change to its Conditions of Participation that would require hospitals to implement antibiotic stewardship programs to participate in Medicare and Medicaid. Not long after, in July, the Joint Commission announced a new medication management accreditation standard that addresses antimicrobial stewardship policies in hospitals and nursing care centers. That standard is effective Jan. 1.

5. In September, the United Nations held a historic meeting on how to curb the growth of antibiotic resistance. The meeting was the fourth time the U.N. General Assembly had discussed a health-related issue. It culminated in all 193 member states pledging commitment to the "Global Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance," which was developed in 2015 by the World Health Organization and other groups.

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