Infectious Diseases Experts Issue New Strategies Report to Address Growing "Superbug" Problem

ARLINGTON, Va. --  A new report presented today in Atlanta at a key meeting of federal policymakers and infectious diseases experts outlines a three-pronged strategy to address the growing public health and patient safety crisis of antibiotic-resistant "superbugs" and other antimicrobial-resistant infections.

With the number of "superbug" infections rising and the number of effective drugs available to fight them shrinking, the new report, titled, "The Epidemic of Antibiotic-resistant Infections: A Call to Action to the Medical Community from the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA)" outlines the Society's "wish list" of strategies and specifically calls for: 

1. Better federal coordination and leadership, greater attention and education, and significant new funding for U.S. and global antimicrobial resistance activities.  Prevention, control, monitoring, and research all must be firmly strengthened to tackle drug-resistant "bad bugs" in the U.S. and those that threaten us from other countries.

2. New incentives to increase research and development (R&D) of antibiotics, diagnostic tests, and other high-priority infectious diseases products. These products are vital to public health and patient care. Yet they are rarely developed because of technical difficulties, and because they do not generate the return on investment offered by drugs for chronic conditions such as heart disease. 

3. An end to the non-therapeutic use of antimicrobials in agriculture. The practice of feeding food animals antibiotics to slightly increase their growth rate is undermining the therapeutic value of these critical medications for people. The United States is far behind many other developed nations in this regard. Other countries already have successfully taken on agricultural special-interest lobbyists who support this risky practice that provides no public health benefit.

Three IDSA-backed pieces of legislation now before Congress will begin to implement these key strategies:

S. 2313/H.R. 3697, the comprehensive "Strategies To Address Antimicrobial Resistance (STAAR) Act."  (For more information, see

S. 2351/H.R. 4200, a bill to grant R&D tax credits to manufacturers of critical infectious diseases products.

S. 549/H.R 962, the "Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act," will phase out the use of antibiotics for growth promotion in food animals.

Research shows the "bad bug" methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) alone infects more than 94,000 people nationally, killing an estimated 19,000 people.  Concerns have also arisen about whether MRSA can be transmitted to humans through farm animals, such as pigs.

But the problem goes well beyond MRSA. IDSA is concerned about other drug-resistant superbugs looming on the horizon, including E. coli and tuberculosis, as well as less-familiar names such as Clostridium difficile, Klebsiella, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Acinetobacter.

IDSA's report was issued during a major federal meeting called by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to update the federal Action Plan to Combat Antimicrobial Resistance, first issued in 2001. For the meeting, the federal government has brought together a panel of more than 60 medical, veterinary, and infectious diseases consultants, including IDSA physician leaders, to reshape and strengthen existing action items relating to antimicrobial resistance surveillance, prevention and control, research, and product development. 

The IDSA's report is intended to help guide the revision of the federal Action Plan, influence congressional action on the three IDSA-endorsed bills and, finally, to press for a significant increase in appropriations to support federal efforts. 

"A major flaw with the Administration's approach, beginning as far back as 2001, has been the lack of sufficient resources to implement the federal Action Plan," said Robert J. Guidos, JD, IDSA's director of public policy and government relations who announced the new report during the Atlanta meeting. "This week, IDSA will write President Bush calling for strengthened funding for CDC, NIH, FDA, and the other agencies responsible for implementing the Action Plan, a revised version of which is expected to be released in 2008."

"Resistance to antibiotics is inevitable," said Brad Spellberg, MD, lead author of IDSA's report. "For us to have any chance to keep up with the epidemic of antibiotic resistant infections will require a significant investment of new resources, and a comprehensive and cooperative effort of federal officials, physicians, patients, health care facilities, and drug and diagnostics manufacturers. Our success will depend on the partnerships we create, the resources brought to bear, and the support we lend one another."

Source: IDSA