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Save our miracle drugs

Updated: June 4, 2014 3:46PM



The Chicago Sun-Times recently reported on proposed federal legislation to develop an innovative strategy for combating antibiotic resistance. The bill was introduced by two Chicago-area representatives, Peter Roskam and Danny Davis. We thank them for their leadership in an area of vital importance to our nation’s health security.

Combating antibiotic resistance — bacteria outsmarting the drugs designed to kill them — is critical now, as these microbes could return us to the time when there were no antibiotics and simple infections were fatal.

Drug-resistant infections don’t only make simple infections such as pneumonia and urinary-tract infections more dangerous. Resistant organisms also threaten to undermine everything from cancer treatment to complex surgeries to organ transplants to treatment of arthritis and more. These are all treatments that are commonly complicated by infections — infections now at risk of becoming untreatable.

It’s a big problem, and one that’s getting worse. But it’s not too late. In a 2013 landmark report, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention laid out four core actions that the country must take to turn the tide. These steps include preventing infections and the spread of resistant bacteria, better tracking, improving prescribing and use of antibiotics, and developing new drugs and tests.

It’s going to take all four strategies to win the battle.

President’s Obama’s budget proposal for 2015 requests $30 million for CDC’s Detect and Protect Against Antibiotic Resistance Initiative. This Initiative further supports drug development and tracking and, if funded, will also boost efforts to improve prescribing, more quickly resolve outbreaks, and prevent infections and spread of deadly bacteria.

CDC’s Antibiotic Resistance Initiative’s centerpiece is a new, five-region laboratory network. These labs will speed up our ability to detect the most dangerous resistance threats and support a Resistance Bacteria Bank that will make drug-resistant samples available to diagnostic, pharmaceutical, and biotech organizations trying to develop new drugs and tests. A new public portal will track national trends and variations in antibiotic prescribing and resistance.

In addition to the Antibiotic Resistance Initiative, the president’s budget includes a $14 million increase to quickly expand the CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network and boost health care facilities’ uptake of antibiotic prescribing and resistance tracking.

One of the most serious antibiotic resistance threats is carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae or CRE. These nightmare bacteria are becoming more common and are now resistant to most, and in some cases all, available antibiotics.

Illinois is at the forefront of CRE prevention efforts. In 2013, Illinois and CDC experts worked together to identify and stop an outbreak of CRE on hospital endoscopes. Since then, Illinois has become a national leader in CRE control. Illinois health care facilities are now required to report all cases of CRE. This allows problems to be identified quickly so measures can be taken to stop the bacteria from spreading.

Innovative research funded by the CDC at Rush University Medical Center and Stroger Hospital is helping prevent the spread of CRE, MRSA and many other resistant microbes. With the investment proposed in the president’s budget, CDC will capitalize on this research and other state-of-the-art science to outsmart the bacteria that are defeating our miracle drugs.

Urgent action is needed by everyone who manufactures, prescribes, or uses antibiotics. We must change the way we look at these drugs — they are a precious resource that must be protected.

Consider this investment as a down payment for our country to start tackling one of the biggest health threats of our time.

Modern medicine is at stake.

Dr. Tom Frieden is the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and administrator of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.



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