Just one week ago, the Alliance for Aging Research was fortunate enough to host an amazing group of leaders from the fields of aging, infectious disease, health care and government to discuss the disproportionate impact of healthcare-associated infections (HAI) on older adults and the need for an improved treatment paradigm to address infections in this vulnerable population.
This group of thought leaders heard presentations from leading experts in the area of HAI prevention and public policy and explored possible solutions to improve infection prevention, increase awareness and education, and encourage the development of novel antibiotics on the eve of a major announcement from President Obama and his President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST).
The White House signaled a commitment to facilitating the development of new drugs, diagnostics and vaccines to reduce antibiotic resistance. It is devoting resources to the development of diagnostics that allow for more accurate prescribing of antibiotics. They also aim to incentivize the private sector to develop new drugs and vaccines, recognizing that our current arsenal is not adequate to meet the challenges ahead of us.
The PCAST report also makes a number of recommendations to strengthen antibiotic stewardship. Of particular note, the Council calls for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to put in place regulations by 2017 for long-term care facilities and nursing homes to implement robust antibiotic stewardship programs as a condition of participation. This is a step in the right direction, but not enough emphasis is placed on tracking and reporting infections rates in older adults receiving care outside of the hospital. The most recent data on infection rates in long-term care facilities was released over a decade ago. Even less data is available on infections occurring in older adults receiving care at home. Improved monitoring in these increasingly common settings of care for the elderly is clearly needed so that the right interventions are put in place to reduce them and so that consumers can make more informed choices about their care.
It was apparent from our forum that both culture and policy need to change. Stewardship programs are taking shape in many medical centers, but the average person does not know that they must take steps to combat antibiotic resistance by reducing their own unnecessary antibiotic use and by remaining vigilant when caring for a loved one who is aging.
We are thankful to the groups who participated last week for their continued engagement. We also appreciate Cubist for their support in making this event possible.