Pharmaceutical manufacturers, poultry producers and sandwich sellers may seem an unlikely alliance, but folks from all these industries came to the White House in early June to unite against superbacteria.

Health experts around the world have sounded the alarm for years about the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria — super-bad bugs that have developed an immunity to antibiotics that are used to protect humans from infections.

Misuse, overuse and poor manufacture of antibiotics allowed bacterial resistance to evolve. Better practices in antibiotic use might help fix the problem.

Before the White House event, Dr. Tom Frieden of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that antibiotic misuse must end if these medicines are to remain effective in overcoming human infections, or “watch as the clock turns back to a world where simple infections kill people.”

The White House put out a battle plan in March to address antibiotic-resistant bacteria through medical and research channels. The June meeting recruited new soldiers to the bacteria battle — about 150 companies and institutions, including McDonald’s restaurants, Wal-Mart, health educators and agricultural producers.

Various industries have identified better practices that will reduce the further development of “nightmare bacteria” and combat bad bugs already in circulation. The White House released a fact sheet summarizing the actions ahead.

Health care practitioners pledge to use more discretion in prescribing antibiotics. (© AP Images)
  • Health care providers will improve how they prescribe antibiotics to patients to reduce inappropriate dosing for viral conditions.
  • Pharmaceutical and diagnostic companies will develop new surveillance tools to better understand where and how bad bugs are emerging and spreading.
  • Commercial agriculture enterprises will scale back use of antibiotics in their flocks and herds to pre-empt disease and speed growth. This practice must be scaled back to contain the nightmare bacteria, experts say.

You too can be a warrior against superbacteria. Don’t pressure your doctor for antibiotics. Ask your butcher for meat and poultry raised without antibiotics.