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The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. BROWN) is recognized for 5 minutes.
Mr. BROWN of Ohio. Mr. Speaker, we in Congress cannot go home to our districts and say we have taken the steps necessary to prepare for future bioterrorist attacks unless and until we confront the issue of antibiotic resistance. The links between antibiotic resistance and bioterrorism are clear. Antibiotic resistent strains of anthrax and other microbes are among the most lethal of biological weapons, and they are a reality. There are published reports of an anthrax strain engineered by Russian scientists to resist the penicillin and tetracycline classes of antibiotics. We can only assume that anthrax and other lethal agents will be engineered to resist new antibiotics like Cipro.
Antibiotic resistance is significant in other important ways. Overuse and misuse of antibiotics will render most microbes resistent to our current stockpile of drugs, potentially leaving the Nation poorly prepared in the event of biological attacks. To some extent this is a vicious cycle. Bioterrorist threats can lead to overuse of current antibiotics, which in turn render these antibiotics less effective against the lethal agents used in bioterrorism.
Look at Cipro, for example. Widespread use of Cipro, a broad-spectrum antibiotic, would kill bacteria that are susceptible to Cipro. The bacteria that are not killed will be those that evolve resistance to Cipro. Those Cipro resistant bacteria then flourish unchecked unless an even stronger antibiotic is available to kill them.
Many bacteria that cause severe human illness are already resistant to older antibiotics like penicillin. That is one reason the drug of choice is often one of the newer antibiotics like Cipro. If the U.S. and the rest of the world begin using Cipro indiscriminately, then Cipro, that antibiotic, will lose its effectiveness also.
To adequately prepare for a terrorist attack, State and local health departments must be equipped to rapidly identify and respond to antibiotic resistant strains of anthrax and other lethal agents. And to ensure the continued efficacy of our antibiotic stockpile, we must isolate emerging antibiotic resistant pathogens, track antibiotic overuse and misuse, and monitor the effectiveness of existing treatments over time.
Surveillance provides the data needed to prioritize the research and the development of new antibiotic treatments. Drug resistant pathogens are a growing threat to each of us as Americans. Examples of important microbes that are rapidly developing resistance to available antimicrobials include the bacteria that cause ear infections, that cause pneumonia, that cause meningitis, and skin and bone and lung and blood stream infections. Importantly, this list also includes food borne infections like salmonella.
The Nation's food supply has been identified as a potential vehicle for future bioterrorist attacks. Experts across the public health spectrum have testified to the seriousness of antibiotic resistance. Congress should respond appropriately and quickly to these warnings before the threat of what could be becomes what is.
Under last year's Public Health Threats and Emergencies Act sponsored by my colleagues, the gentleman from North Carolina (Mr. BURR) and the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. STUPAK), Congress authorized a grant program that equips State and local health departments to identify and to track antibiotic resistance. My friend, the gentleman from New York (Mr. BOEHLERT), and I are requesting that the Committee on Appropriations include at least $50 million for this grant
program in the Homeland Security supplemental appropriations bill, which this body will take up later this week.
I urge Members on both sides of the aisle to weigh in on this issue. Let the appropriators know that funding this is absolutely critical to our Nation. We must help State and local health authorities and State and local health agencies combat antibiotic resistance. Our ability to fight bioterrorism absolutely depends on it.
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