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Release: Immediate

University Hygienic Laboratory director to testify before U.S. Senate subcommittee

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Mary J.R. Gilchrist, Ph.D., director of the University of Iowa Hygienic Laboratory, is expected to testify Thursday before the U.S. Senate Public Health Subcommittee on the problem of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Specifically, Gilchrist plans to talk about the antibiotic resistant tracking programs in place and the various information systems that laboratories are using. She also will discuss the success of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Emerging Infectious Diseases Program and will advocate for continued and increased funding of that initiative.

"It's important to interpret what's happening out there to the people who make the decisions," Gilchrist said.

Gilchrist's testimony coincides with the release of the General Accounting Office's report on "Emerging infectious diseases: Consensus on how needed laboratory capabilities could strengthen surveillance."

The issue of antibiotic resistant bacteria is an important one. Many bacteria are developing resistance to antibiotics, and the emergence of a "superbug" resistant to all treatments is a real possibility in the future unless public health professionals, the government and the public take corrective steps soon.

The University Hygienic Laboratory, Iowa's environmental and public health laboratory, is involved in the Iowa Antibiotic Resistance Task Force, along with the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the Iowa Department of Public Health. These three units are attempting to address the antibiotic resistance issue in Iowa.

Another statewide initiative looking at the problem is the five-year, UI-based study titled "Emerging Infections and the Epidemiology of Iowa Organisms: A Prospective, Statewide, Longitudinal Surveillance Study of Antimicrobial Resistance." The goal of the project, which began last July, is to determine the magnitude and scope of antibiotic resistance in Iowa, measure the phenomenon's change over the long term, identify appropriate solutions to combat the resistance and then implement those solutions.