- The National Institutes of Health and the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response recently announced the debut of the Antimicrobial Resistance Diagnostic Challenge.
- The competition offers $20 million in prizes for those who can devise solutions for the increasing threat of drug-resistant superbugs, which the agencies called "a rising public health threat."
- The competition encourages development of diagnostic tests that could identify and characterize antibiotic-resistant bacteria in real time. The agencies are also looking for tests that distinguish between viral and bacterial infections. These tests could limit the need for antibiotics, thought to be a major cause of drug-resistant bacteria.
Healthcare providers currently have to contend with pathogen detection tests that take two to three days or longer for results. But with faster diagnostics, providers could better tailor treatments, particularly if a person should receive antibiotics.
Providers broadly prescribing antibiotics as a solution to various healthcare needs is only one portion of the antibiotics debate. The other stems from the food supply itself, particularly meat and dairy products that could contain antibiotics residue from treatments the food animals received. Agricultural groups this week launched a website to help consumers and manufacturers make sense of the upcoming FDA regulations for antibiotics use.
Manufacturers have gotten involved in the fight against superbugs already. Certain companies have chosen to reduce or eliminate the use of antibiotics in their supply chains. Others, like Sanderson Farms, prefer to pursue transparency about how and why the company uses antibiotics to clear up myths and misconceptions rather than stop using them and risk the animals' safety.
Another way manufacturers could move the initiative forward is to participate in this competition and divert some of their R&D investments and labor into developing these types of diagnostic tests. Manufacturers are becoming more familiar and comfortable with genetic testing, like whole genome sequencing, for food safety purposes. This could be a way to not only benefit the company and its own food safety plan, but also the industry and food supply as a whole.