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Smith Chairs Health Hearing on 'Superbugs' that Resist Drug Treatment

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

The international threat of drug-resistant diseases around the world was the sobering topic today of head of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who testified at a congressional hearing of the House global health panel chaired by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04).

"In the last 10 years, these drug-resistant diseases have been identified in patients in more than 200 hospitals in 42 states in this country. Over that period, their prevalence rate has increased from one percent of patients to four percent for those in short-term care, but for patients in long-term care facilities, the rate is as high as 18 percent. Half of all patients who contract these diseases do not survive," said Smith.

The hearing, "Meeting the Challenge of Drug-Resistant Diseases in Developing Countries," was held before the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations.

Dr. Tom Frieden, M.D., Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) within the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services--the chief U.S. government office tasked with addressing health threats and policy--told the panel that the very real threat of epidemics arise at unpredictable intervals and from unexpected sources, affecting Americans and others around the world.

"To prevent these global health threats, we must ensure the global food, drug, and medical device supply is safe," Frieden testified. "We must improve infection control as well as the judicious use of antibiotics and other drugs, and intensify our efforts to develop new drugs and tools to reduce the impact of drug resistance. Nations must improve the safety and security of their laboratories and other facilities working with dangerous organisms to prevent the intentional or unintentional release of disease."

Frieden identified four key trends that have recently emerged in the superbug threat:

-the rise of antimicrobial resistance;

-emerging global threats such as the Novel Influenza A (H7N9) virus;

-globalization of travel and trade, and;

-the potential for deadly pathogens or products to inadvertently or intentionally be released.

"These trends demonstrate the need for public health action to identify serious health problems and to coordinate a targeted response that ensures the protection of our Nation," he said. "We have an unprecedented and unique opportunity to make progress in preventing these threats. We have the commitment and goodwill of partner governments, multilateral organizations and other critical stakeholders necessary to strengthen global health security. Now we must continue our work of adapting this commitment to global health security into action.

Smith said new strategies are needed to fight the global threat, and cited disappointment that President Obama had sharply cut tuberculosis funding.

"Both developed and developing nations must work together to prevent and treat for these diseases and find a way to implement the new strategies in an era of constrained budgets and loosening control of authority in far too many countries," Smith said. "However, the Administration's proposed FY 2014 budget calls for a 19 percent cut in funding for tuberculosis programming at a time we need such capacity the most."

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