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MN agencies team up to fight catastrophic threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria

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Antibiotic resistant bacteria poses a potentially "catastrophic" risk to humankind, so it's no surprise four Minnesota agencies are taking steps to combat it.

On Friday Minnesota's Department of Health (MDH), Department of Agriculture, Board of Animal Health and Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) launched a five-year collaborative project called "One Health," focusing on antibiotic resistance.

The widespread use of antibiotics in the past two decades has given rise to an "alarming" increase in antibiotic-resistant infections. As these infections encounter more antibiotics, more strains are able to develop resistance through natural selection.

The four state agencies will be working together to promote "judicious antibiotic use" to reduce the impact of resistant bacteria.

"Unless we can find ways to preserve the effectiveness of the antibiotics we have and slow the development of resistance to new antibiotics, we may again see increased numbers of illnesses and death due to our inability to control bacterial infections," said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dr. Ed Ehlinger.

"Antibiotics are critical public health tools. Their effectiveness can and must be preserved. This can be done through judicious use and diligent stewardship."

Antimicrobial disease a 'catastrophe' waiting to happen

In 2013, England's Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, said the world will face a "catastrophe threat" if it doesn't immediately address the threat of antimicrobial disease.

She said if no action is taken, then within 20 years people could "routinely" die from minor surgeries as more and more antibiotic medication could become useless against certain strains of bacteria.

The CDC meanwhile estimates antibiotic-resistant bacteria already cause two million illnesses and 23,000 deaths in people each year, and options for treating bacterial infections are becoming either limited, expensive or more toxic.

Over the next five years, the One Health initiative will promote understanding of antibiotic stewardship in both humans and animals and develop plans that will help healthcare facilities run their own stewardship programs.

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