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Matheson Reintroduces Bill to Combat Drug-Resistant Bacteria

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Congressman Jim Matheson has reintroduced legislation proposing a coordinated strategy to address the alarming health threat of drug-resistant microbes. The Strategies to Address Antimicrobial Resistance (STAAR) Act was filed Wednesday in the House.

Health providers say that drug-resistant bacteria such as staphylococcus (staph) are a growing health crisis in this country, as more hospital patients are contracting—and sometimes dying from—these so-called "superbugs."

"In Utah , the number of children being seen with aggressive infections at Primary Children's Medical Center has increased nearly 20-fold since 1989," said Matheson. "Government health agencies must increase the effort to manage antimicrobial resistance by better addressing the cause, prevention and control and by encouraging the development of new, effective antibiotics."

"My bill takes several common sense steps aimed to improve antibiotic development and ultimately to help people all across the country and around the world who need and rely on antibiotics," Matheson said. "Antimicrobial resistance is often caused by the overuse of antibiotics and my bill addresses this problem by providing for data collection on antibiotic use as well as research to combat so-called ‘superbugs.'"

Matheson said he worked with members of the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA) whose 8,000-member group of physicians has become increasingly alarmed by what they view as a brewing health crisis. According to a 2007 research study, 34 out of every 1,000 hospital patients have active hospital-acquired drug-resistant staph infections; another 12 patients are ‘colonized" with the bug which means they could contract or spread the disease. That amounts to up to 1.2 million patients infected annually and between 48,000 and 119,000 deaths—far more than epidemiologists previous thought. Also tuberculosis (TB)—which kills 2 million worldwide a year, more than any other infectious disease—is becoming increasingly resistant.

The STAAR Act provides authority for the federal gov ernment to combat antimicrobial resistance by:

Reauthorizing the Antimicrobial Resistance Task Force, establishing an Advisory Board of outside experts and an Office of Antimicrobial Resistance reporting to the Secretary of Health and Human Services whose director will oversee government efforts to combat antimicrobial resistance;

Creating a joint blueprint for antimicrobial resistance research at the National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;

Collecting available data to allow the gov ernment to better assess the antimicrobial resistance problem including how antibiotic use triggers the development of resistance; and

Establishing demonstration projects to encourage more appropriate use of existing antibiotics.

Matheson said it used to be assumed that if a drug lost its potency, another would soon be available to replace it. But today, there are so few new drugs in the pipeline that the only prudent action is to prolong the effectiveness of the existing drugs.

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