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Amid calls for revitalization of antimicrobial research, PASTEUR Act could help

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According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every 15 minutes a person in the United States dies from an infection resistant to treatment with existing antimicrobial drugs.

The PASTEUR Act, which stands for "Pioneering Antimicrobial Subscriptions to End Upsurging Resistance," has been reintroduced in Congress with bipartisan support.

The law encourages investments in the development of antibiotics to help combat the rise in "superbugs" and improve responsible use and availability of antibiotics.

Dr. Emily Spivak, medical director of antimicrobial stewardship at University of Utah Health, said antibiotic resistance is "directly correlated with how much and how frequently" antibiotics are used.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, antimicrobial-resistant infections and deaths increased in hospitals by at least 15%.

Spivak emphasized she is pleased to see the PASTEUR Act being bundled with pandemic preparedness.

"It is the antibiotic stewardship program or people who really try and minimize and inform and translate science so that very quickly in a pandemic situation, we understand what we really should be doing," Spivak explained. "What helps people, what doesn't help people, what might hurt people."

Spivak acknowledged many lessons were learned from the pandemic. She suspects if and when another respiratory pandemic were to happen, antibiotic use would likely go up.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every 15 minutes a person in the United States dies from an infection resistant to treatment with existing antimicrobial drugs.

David Hyun, antibiotic resistance project director for The Pew Charitable Trusts, said the other half of the equation driving antibiotic resistance is the lack of antibiotic development. He added the "antibiotic pipeline has been pretty dry," compared with how things were three to four decades ago.

One of the key components of the bill is to establish a "subscription-style" model, offering drug developers an upfront payment in exchange for access to antibiotics, and to prioritize innovations to treat resistant infections; something Hyun asserted is attractive.

"It is creating an economic incentive for the drug-development pipeline to incentivize and make sure that new antibiotics are being researched and developed and filling unmet needs in the space of antibiotic resistance," Hyun stressed.

Hyun added it is important to recognize antibiotic resistance can impact us all, especially those who are part of more vulnerable patient populations like those with immunocompromised conditions who heavily rely on antibiotics to work.