Bipartisan committee urges GAO to study the growing threat of superbugs

Patient and nurse in hospital
Committee members are concerned the nation doesn't have enough information on antibiotic-resistant bacteria and how to prevent superbugs. Once resistance is developed, they said bacteria can spread worldwide. (Getty/monkeybusinessimages)

A bipartisan committee is calling on the Government Accountability Office to study drug-resistant superbugs, a growing threat in hospitals across the country and globe.

The Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter (PDF) Thursday to the GAO asking it to study the issue so the nation would be better prepared to respond to drug-resistant bacteria. The committee hopes the study will help them learn more about how superbugs are detected and barriers to the development of new antibiotics.

“Different mechanisms can give rise to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, wrote Greg Walden, R-Oregon, chairman of the committee, Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J. ranking member of the committee, and Diana DeGette, D-Colo., ranking member of the oversight and investigations subcommittee. Once resistance is developed, they said bacteria can spread worldwide.

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The lack of new antibiotics in the pipeline is a growing concern. A report issued by the World Health Organization in September found that bacteria that causes tuberculosis and pneumonia and urinary tract infections are increasingly resistant to existing antibiotics and urgently need new treatments.

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Lack of investment in research and development for antibiotic-resistant infections will be a setback in modern medicine, forcing the world back to a “time when people feared common infections and risked their lives from minor surgery," said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO, when the report was released.

In the meantime, the WHO has recommended providers cut back on the use of antibiotics, making sure to keep in reserve medications used only as a last-resort option to treat an infection, with multiple drug resistances.