COVID-19 has reminded us how important it is that we prepare for possible health threats, and work to prevent or mitigate them before they become full-blown crises.
For years now, we’ve known now that antibiotic-resistant “super bugs” are an increasingly dangerous threat to Ohioans’ health. It’s why I’m reintroducing the Strategies to Address Antibiotic Resistance, or STAAR Act, to strengthen our federal response to antibiotic resistant bacteria.
Antibiotics have been one of the greatest public health achievements of all time – they’re one of the bedrocks of modern medicine, and make everything from surgery to chemotherapy possible.
But each year in the U.S., at least 2.8 million people develop antibiotic-resistant infections, and more than 35,000 people die from them. They’re painful and difficult to treat, and they’ve moved beyond just hospitals, to infect healthy adults and children.
And the pandemic has only made it harder to treat these infections. More patients need longer hospital stays, and many hospitals face staffing shortages. It makes testing for and managing the spread of drug-resistant infections harder, and makes it more difficult to implement infection control practices.
These superbugs are an increasing threat to our health in large part because of the over-prescription and misuse of antibiotics. Studies have found that a full one third of antibiotic prescriptions were deemed unnecessary or inappropriate.
If we go on like this, we’re going to end up with an arsenal of antibiotics that are virtually ineffective.
We have to take this threat seriously. Our bill will improve our existing monitoring, data collection, and research efforts, to help protect current and future antibiotics from becoming ineffective. It would allow the CDC to partner with local health departments to form collaboratives focused on preventing superbugs, and it would provide resources for healthcare facilities to study and encourage the safe and appropriate use of antibiotics. The legislation would also require annual reports to Congress on the implementation of the National Action Plan for combating antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
We have to be proactive if we want to prevent another public health crisis, and stop the spread of these superbugs before they erase many of the health gains we’ve made over the past century.
We cannot allow a return to the days when an ear infection could threaten a child’s life, or “routine surgery” was an oxymoron.
Sherrod Brown is the senior U.S. senator from Ohio.