On Thursday, October 24, 2019, Research!America hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill with the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), AdvaMedDX, and BD entitled “Leading the Charge Against Antimicrobial Resistance: Partnering to Meet the Challenge.” The panelists included Michael Craig, Senior Advisor, CDC; Robin Patel, MD, President, ASM; Susan Van Meter, Executive Director, AdvaMedDx; Kalvin Yu, MD, Medical Director, Medical Informatics, BD; and the discussion was moderated by Amanda Jezek, Senior Vice President of Public Policy and Government Relations, Infectious Diseases Society of America.
In introductory remarks, Stefano Bertuzzi, Executive Director and CEO of ASM, led off with a call to action, pointing out that antimicrobial resistance is a major priority for public health. “Microbes know no borders. Microbes touch everything,” he noted. Dr. Patel provided context by explaining that antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a significant, global public health crisis and, if nothing is done, will be the leading cause of death by 2050, exceeding the mortality of cancer. She shared as a physician, “I can no longer count on available antibiotics to work the way they used to,” due to rising antibiotic resistance. The panelists emphasized that multiple strategies and multi-sector action is crucial in approaching this complicated, international public health issue.
The moderator turned the discussion to strategies for action. Antibiotic stewardship is a tactic to reserve antibiotics for when they are needed. Dr. Patel pointed out, “any time you take an antibiotic, all the bacteria in your body get exposed to it,” allowing for resistant strains to form. Antibiotic stewardship is crucial to controlling the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria and preventing the formation of new types of resistance.
Susan Van Meter discussed the role of diagnostics, which serve as a “crucial tool in helping stewardship programs meet their goals.” Improved diagnostic techniques allow for physicians to determine the correct antibiotics to use as well as what antibiotics to avoid to deescalate resistance. There is a great deal of innovation taking place in this space to develop accurate, rapid diagnostic technology that bolsters clinician confidence and reduce misuse. Dr. Yu explained that optimizing and collating this diagnostic data and providing “context to frontline clinicians” will allow them to act quickly on emergent bacterial infections like sepsis. “The sooner we have the diagnosis the sooner we can get patients on the right therapy,” he added.
The panelists also discussed another key area of action: CDC’s AMR Challenge. A year-long effort concluding in August 2019, the AMR Challenge accelerated this fight against antimicrobial resistance across the globe by asking governments, private companies, and non-governmental organizations to commit to action to curb antimicrobial resistance by promoting antibiotic stewardship, preventing the spread of resistant germs, sharing data, among some of the goals. “This is a problem that’s not going away,” said CDC’s Michael Craig, noting that the problem of AMR is larger than previously estimated. He shared that the CDC had more than 350 organizations participate, including commitments from more than 10,000 healthcare facilities around the world to improving infection prevention and control, which helps stop the spread of resistant germs and prevents infections. And organizations in Africa committed to improve safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene, which can help to stop infections, reduce the need for antibiotics, and slow the spread of antibiotic resistance. Though strides have been made in patient care, infection control, stewardship, and diagnostics, improvements need to be made in both research and treatment on a national and global level. “We want to be able to stop resistance where it starts,” Craig said.
Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) closed the briefing by recognizing the importance of the CDC in curbing AMR as a public health threat and highlighting that bipartisan cooperation, robust funding for research and advocacy are necessary to advance the research agenda and address AMR. The Senator remarked to attendees, “If there is ever a time to dedicate your advocacy, your voice, and your persuasion, the time is now.” Addressing antibiotic resistance, as expressed by the panelists, requires multi-sector collaboration, improvements of infection control, antibiotic stewardship, surveillance diagnostics, and data systems, as well as robust, consistent federal funding for research and infrastructure, which can mitigate the spread of antibiotic resistant disease.