America’s Surgeon General alleges that a breakdown in the country’s treatment of antibiotic resistance is “the most important public health issue of our time”.
Dr Jerome Adams made the comments in a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, after he was appointed as head of the US health agency in April.
The USA is part of the World Health Organization (WHO) system and Mr Adams described antibiotic resistance as a major global threat and the “single most urgent health problem we face today”.
More than 2 million people die from drug-resistant infections every year, he said.
“What is happening now is absolutely unthinkable but the alarm is sounding louder and louder,” he said.
“Every day millions of infections and preventable deaths can be averted if we act today.
“For me, this is really the most important public health issue of our time because I can’t wait another two decades to protect Americans from the next serious public health emergency.”
These deadly infections could develop resistance to antibiotics and could cause a pandemic in the coming decades, Dr Adams said.
The Trump administration’s budget proposal for the 2020 fiscal year allocates $4.2bn to fighting resistant infections.
More than $1bn has been earmarked for a “pilot programme” to prevent the spread of such infections in and among prisons, which has been criticised as a “potential shooting gallery” for drug-resistant infections.
It is also said to set aside $1.65bn in research funding for treating and preventing infections.
The USA is home to the world’s largest supplier of antibiotics and medical professionals often say the country’s overuse is one of the biggest contributors to antimicrobial resistance.
There is also a strong belief that outdated guidance and resistance to good medicine is a part of the problem.
In the past, scientists have said that there is no quick fix for antibiotic resistance, only a gradual strategy that involves careful use of medicines.
“Health care professionals must start early on the path to antibiotic resistance prevention by following basic infection control principles such as hand hygiene, using hand sanitizers and promptly washing their hands with soap and water,” Dr Adams said.