President Barack Obama ordered federal agencies to launch a concerted effort to combat the growing "urgent health threat" from bacteria that is resistant to antibiotic treatment, a problem that kills 23,000 people each year.
An executive order signed by Obama calls for a five-year plan to implement a newly announced national strategy for tackling the problem to be submitted to him by mid-February. It also posts a $20 million prize for the development of a rapid test that can be used to identify and track the spread of highly resistant bacterial infections.
Thursday's order establishes a task force to be co-chaired by the secretaries of Defense, Agriculture and Health and Human Services, as well as a presidential advisory council made up of top nongovernmental experts.
At the same time Thursday, Obama's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology called for doubling the current investment in antibiotic surveillance, stewardship and research and development to $900 million annually, and spurring commercial development of new antibiotics with another $800 million in federal spending each year.
"This represents a major elevation of the issue," said John Holdren, Obama's assistant for science and technology. "A major upgrading of the administrative efforts to help address it."