Combating the rise of antimicrobial resistance

In April, I visited University Hospitals in Cleveland to discuss antimicrobial resistance, a public health crisis that affects 2 million Americans each year.

Harmful microbes, such as methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, have adapted to the antibiotic drugs that we have used to treat them and, as a result, infections caused by these microbes are difficult to treat. Antibiotic-resistant infections kill more than 23,000 Americans a year, and if we continue to ignore this problem, we could find ourselves unable to treat what are now common infections.

I was joined by Molly Brudnick, a retired medical social worker who contracted methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus while in the hospital, recovering from back surgery. After spending six weeks in a nursing home for IV antibiotics and three months of additional rehabilitation, Molly’s back is permanently disfigured from the super bug attack and she still requires therapy.

To combat the rise of these deadly infections, I introduced the Strategies to Address Antimicrobial Resistance Act. This legislation would increase the emphasis on federal antimicrobial resistance surveillance, prevention and control, and research efforts.

The STAAR Act would require the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to track antibiotic-resistant infections, reporting on infection trends, threats and antibiotic use. It also would help facilitate connections between the CDC and state and local health departments to support prevention and control efforts during local outbreaks.

In addition, the act would authorize grants for health care facilities to develop programs that test for appropriate antibiotic use.

Finally, the STAAR Act would establish an Office of Antimicrobial Resistance at the Department of Health and Human Services to provide greater coordination and accountability between the agencies involved in researching and combating drug resistance.

The CDC has referred to antimicrobial resistance as “one of our most serious health threats.” It’s critical that we take swift action to stop its rise.