SILVER SPRING, Md. — Termed by some as the greatest public health threat of our time, the issue of antibiotic resistance is front and center for a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) two-day public hearing next month.
Officials will discuss the status of the federal government’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS), a program to save lives and prevent infections by tracking antibiotic resistance in the nation’s animal-producing food supply.
According to the most recent report by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are a number of resistant pathogens that pose a serious threat to public health, one-third of them found in food. Research shows a consumer has a 50/50 chance of buying meat tainted with drug-resistant bacteria at the grocery store.
The public hearing will be Aug. 12-13 at the FDA Headquarters in Silver Spring and will be webcast live, allowing people across the country to join in the discussion and ask questions of FDA officials and other panelists.
The NARMS program is a joint venture including the FDA, the CDC, the USDA and local and state health departments. Teams of NARMS specialists test daily bacteria collected from humans, food-producing animals and retail meats in order to determine whether the bacteria are resistant to certain antibiotics.
A NARMS research team found antibiotic-resistant bacteria in 81 percent of ground turkey, 69 percent of pork chops, 55 percent of ground beef and 39 percent of raw chicken parts purchased in stores two years ago.
"Consumers should be very concerned that antibiotic-resistant bacteria are now common in the meat aisles of most American supermarkets," said Dawn Undurraga, one of the leading NARMS researchers. "These organisms can cause foodborne illnesses and other infections.
"Worse, they spread antibiotic resistance, which threatens to bring on a post-antibiotic era where important medicines critical to treating people could become ineffective."
According to a CDC report, there are 12 resistant pathogens that threaten the public, four of them extremely serious. These include campylobacter, which caused an estimated 310,000 infections and 28 deaths annually; salmonella, responsible for another 100,000 infections and 38 deaths; E. coli; and shigella.
The public hearing will examine how NARMS studies and analyzes foodborne outbreaks; present the results of the joint task’s research projects using advanced detection methods; compare new and old methods of sampling at the time of slaughter; and how scientific advances impact FDA’s decision-making.
The Aug. 12 meeting will include an overview by NARMS Director Dr. Patrick McDermott on four panel discussions, including the NARMS outlook, various NARMS surveillance results, improvements to analysis critical data results and collaborations with international partners.
The Aug. 13 meetings will include specific NARMS research goals, microbiology tracking of foodborne outbreaks, various epidemiology results from NAHMS studies, the program’s future outlook and a public comment period.
Those wishing to attend or make an oral presentation, or ask questions, should contact Laura Bradbard, of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, at 240-276-9109 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org