Leading House Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats on Thursday called on their Republican counterparts to hold a hearing on “public health risks of increasingly prevalent and dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria,” after an “urgent warning” was issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week.

Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-CA), Health Subcommittee Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-NJ), and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Ranking Member Diana DeGette (D-CO), sent a letter to committee and subcommittee chairs Fred Upton (R-MI), Joe Pitts (R-PA), and Tim Murphy (R-PA) asking for a hearing to explore the issues raised by CDC Director Thomas Frieden, who this week described Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) bacteria as a “nightmare bacteria” for which “our strongest antibiotics don’t work.”

From the letter:

“We are writing to urge you to hold a hearing on the urgent warnings from public health officials about the risks of dangerous, antibiotic-resistant bacteria.  Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Thomas Frieden stated that “we have a very serious problem” from , which he described as a “nightmare bacteria.”  Dr. Frieden described these bacteria as a “triple threat”:  they are resistant to nearly all antibiotics, they kill up to half the patients they infect, and they spread antibiotic resistance to other bacteria. CDC reported that strains of these antibiotic-resistant bacteria are becoming increasingly prevalent.

“Beginning in April 2010, the Subcommittee on Health held a series of three hearings on antibiotic resistance, the first of which was titled “Antibiotic Resistance and the Threat to Public Health.” In September 2012, after reports of a deadly outbreak of antibiotic-resistant bacteria at a National Institutes of Health (NIH) facility, Committee staff received a bipartisan briefing from NIH and CDC on this incident.

Consistent with this record of oversight, we believe the Energy and Commerce Committee should hold a hearing on the public health risks from these potentially-deadly, antibiotic-resistant bacteria.  The Committee could hear from officials at CDC and NIH, researchers, and health care providers to examine the causes of the increasing prevalence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the risks these bacteria pose to the public, and the strategies used by hospitals and other health care providers to control the spread of these bacteria and the outbreaks they cause.  These hearings should be held as quickly as possible to examine the appropriate federal response to this serious threat.”