WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Wednesday, June 26, 2019, Congressman Stephen F. Lynch, Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, will hold a hearing on “U.S. Biodefense, Preparedness, and Implications of Antimicrobial Resistance for National Security.” The Subcommittee will address the emergence of new biological threats, including deadly antimicrobial-resistant diseases that render existing antibiotic, antifungal, or antiviral medications virtually useless. The Subcommittee will also evaluate the readiness of the U.S. government and healthcare system, including hospitals and emergency professionals, to respond to naturally-occurring pandemics and biological attacks that could be perpetrated by state and non-state actors. It will also investigate the growing threat of antimicrobial-resistance, as well as the implications of this challenge for U.S. national security.
WHERE: 2247 Rayburn House Office Building
WHEN: Wednesday, June 26, 2019
TIME: Approximately 3:00 p.m. EST
The hearing will be broadcast here.
- Innovations in biotechnology, such as synthetic biology and gene-editing techniques, have the potential for incredible public health benefits. However, adversaries can also use these “dual-use” technologies to inflict harm through advanced biological weapons and genetically-modified diseases.
- Non-state actors, including terrorist groups, have actively pursued biological weapons and other forms of weapons of mass destruction.
- U.S. national security and biodefense capabilities are also threatened by the growing challenge of antimicrobial-resistant (AMR) diseases. An April 2019 report to the Secretary-General of the United Nations estimated that drug-resistant diseases cause at least 700,000 deaths globally each year, “a figure that could increase to 10 million deaths per year by 2050.”
- Despite directives and strategies from Congress and multiple Administrations, gaps remain in U.S. biodefense capabilities, response, and preparedness. The Trump Administration is reportedly attempting to replace BioWatch with a new system, known as BioDetection 21. However, this new system “also has severe shortcomings,” and DHS scientific staff reportedly warned that the BioDetection 21 system “frequently can’t distinguish between deadly pathogens and airborne pollen or paper dust, increasing the likelihood of false alarms.”
- Public health officials have identified three key measures needed to curtail the spread of antibiotic resistance: infection control and prevention, improved stewardship and reduced use of antibiotics, and development of new antibiotics. However, the pipeline for new antibiotics has been strained by a lack of commercial development as pharmaceutical manufacturers divest from the market.
Dr. Helen Boucher, Director, Tufts Center for Integrated Management of Antimicrobial Resistance - Tufts Medical Center
Dr. Asha George, Executive Director - Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense
Chris Currie, Director, Emergency Management, Disaster Recovery, and DHS Management Issues, Homeland Security and Justice Team - U.S. Government Accountability Office
Dr. Cham E. Dallas (minority witness), University Professor and Director, Institute for Disaster Management - University of Georgia