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April 2011
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From the President: Combating Antimicrobial Resistance

Ricky Lannetti, a star college football player, was only 21 years old when a methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection cut his life short in 2003. I had the honor of meeting Ricky’s mother, Theresa Drew, as she shared her son’s story earlier this month at two IDSA events highlighting the serious public health threat posed by antimicrobial resistance and the need for action to address this global public health crisis before more lives like Ricky’s are lost.

On World Health Day, April 7, which focused on antibiotic resistance, IDSA brought together government officials, lawmakers, physicians, industry representatives, and those whose lives have been forever altered by drug-resistant infections to speak about this complex issue at a press conference and a congressional briefing in Washington, D.C. I thank all of the speakers for their participation and their ongoing commitment to solving this problem.

IDSA also released an important new paper by IDSA leaders outlining specific public policy strategies and research activities to address resistance and the lack of new antibiotic development. "Combating Antimicrobial Resistance: Policy Recommendations to Save Lives" is published in Clinical Infectious Diseases and is available online. (Visit IDSA’s website and see the related article in this issue for more information on our recommendations.)

Our speakers included Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, MD, who described FDA’s efforts to facilitate antibiotic approvals. (You can read her remarks on FDA’s website.) Dr. Hamburg noted that several important FDA guidances for industry will be published later this year to provide a clearer approval pathway for antibiotics needed to treat key infections.

In addition to clearer FDA guidances, there is a need for statutorily-defined incentives and stronger and better-coordinated public health and research efforts to combat resistance.  Focusing on these issues, two members of Congress also spoke: Rep. Phil Gingrey, MD (R-GA), lead sponsor of the Generating Antibiotic Incentives Now (GAIN) Act, and Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT), lead sponsor of the Strategies to Address Antimicrobial Resistance (STAAR) Act.

Minnesota State Epidemiologist Ruth Lynfield, MD, FIDSA, gave an update on the spread of antibiotic resistance in her state and elsewhere; Paul Miller, PhD, vice president and chief scientific officer in the antibacterials research unit at Pfizer, summarized challenges in antibiotic drug discovery from the pharmaceutical industry’s perspective; Brad Spellberg, MD, FIDSA, a member of IDSA’s Antimicrobial Availability Task Force, outlined key recommendations from IDSA’s new policy paper; and Arjun Srinivasan, MD, associate director for healthcare-associated infection prevention programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), provided an additional perspective on antimicrobial resistance and CDC’s efforts.

At a congressional briefing featuring several of the same presenters, Rima Khabbaz, MD, deputy director of infectious diseases at CDC, and Neil Fishman, MD, FIDSA, immediate past president of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, spoke about the growing threat of resistance and the importance of antibiotic stewardship in addressing the problem. As the activities above illustrate, confronting antimicrobial resistance and the market failure represented by the broken antibiotic development pipeline are important priorities for the Society, and we will maintain our focus on this issue.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Interagency Task Force on Antimicrobial Resistance recently issued a draft public health action plan to combat antimicrobial resistance. IDSA is reviewing the plan, which is available online. We will respond to HHS with comments, drawing upon the recommendations in the Society’s latest policy paper. In the coming months, a report is also expected from the joint U.S./European Union Transatlantic Task Force, established in 2009 to encourage global research and development of new antibiotics and to address antimicrobial resistance.

Other recent developments include the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ (NIAID) plan for a new clinical trials network primarily focused on bacterial antibiotic resistance, but also providing the ability to rapidly address emerging infectious diseases. An NIAID town hall meeting in March provided more information, and the meeting presentations and other updates are available on NIAID’s website. IDSA will continue to communicate with members as these plans progress.

Finally, in the next few weeks, IDSA members will be receiving a survey seeking input on what the Society’s priorities should be in the coming years. Your responses will be invaluable as the Board of Directors engages in strategic planning discussions at its June meeting. Thank you in advance for your participation in this brief survey.



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