Engel: Antimicrobial Resistance a Serious International Threat

Engel: Antimicrobial Resistance a Serious International Threat

Congressman Eliot L. Engel, a top Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, discussed the importance of pandemic preparedness and the threat posed by antimicrobial resistance during yesterday’s Health Subcommittee hearing, “Examining the Reauthorization of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act.”

As defined by the World Health Organization, antimicrobial resistance is the ability of a microorganism (like bacteria, viruses, and some parasites) to stop an antimicrobial (such as antibiotics, antivirals and antimalarials) from working against it. As a result, standard treatments become ineffective, infections persist and may spread to others. The problem is exacerbated by the overuse or misuse of antibiotics in people and animals.

During the hearing, Engel questioned Robert Kadlec, MD, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Stephen Redd, MD, RADM, Director, Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), on ways the Administration could bolster national security by developing better tools to fight antimicrobial resistance and more carefully assessing global infectious threats.

Engel’s remarks and questions, as prepared for delivery, are below, and a full video of the hearing can be found here.


Thank you, Chairman Burgess and Ranking Member Green, for holding this very important hearing.

I don’t think we will have properly considered “pandemic preparedness” without discussing the threat of antimicrobial resistance - a serious international health crisis wherein diseases are able to resist the very drugs meant to destroy them.

To underscore the seriousness of antimicrobial resistance, I want to talk about tuberculosis, or TB – not only because Ranking Member Green and I are two of the co-chairs of the House TB Elimination Caucus, but because TB, an airborne infection, kills more people worldwide than any other infectious disease, and drug-resistant TB is the most common and deadly airborne antimicrobial-resistant disease.

Cases of drug-resistant TB cost much more to treat than drug-sensitive TB. And cases of multi-drug-resistant TB and extensively drug-resistant TB are becoming more frequent. 

While we may typically think drug resistance is caused by inappropriate treatment, most drug-resistant TB cases are now caused by transmission from person-to-person – making it much easier for drug-resistant TB to spread to new parts of the world.  

Q1:      History has shown us that we cannot stop infectious threats with isolationist policies. We must invest in new tools to keep Americans safe from the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance – and the real possibility that, one day, there will be a drug-resistant outbreak in the United States.

Dr. Kadlec: What more can BARDA do to spur the development of novel antimicrobials and ensure we have the tools we need to address antimicrobial resistance and improve health security in this country?

Q2:      To truly protect Americans from health threats, I believe we cannot limit our focus to threats within the United States itself.

Dr. Redd, you know from your years of service – including during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic and the 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak – that diseases know no borders.

Do you think it is important for the U.S. to evaluate global threats to health security to ensure we are prepared to face those threats?

Thank you. I yield back the balance of my time.