QUESTION PERIOD

Antimicrobial Resistant Bacteria Strategy

May 26, 2021


Honourable senators, my question is for the Government Representative in the Senate. Senator Gold, this pandemic has demonstrated that infectious diseases must be a primary public health concern. While we are focused on COVID-19, we must not ignore the necessity to act now to head off another looming crisis: that of antimicrobial-resistant, or AMR, bacteria — bacteria that current antibiotics are not able to treat. Yet, even with warnings from this chamber in a report from the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology in 2014 and with the Auditor General’s report of 2015, Canada was then, and continues to be, unprepared. The Public Health Agency of Canada has apparently been working on a national AMR strategy for about four years now, yet we have not seen it.

Senator Gold, what is the status of that work and when will we see what has actually been done?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate) [ + ]

Thank you for your question, senator. As the honourable senator will know, there’s no single sector, much less single government, that can slow the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance on its own. Preserving the effectiveness of existing antimicrobial drugs requires collaboration, not only among governments and partners in health care but within the animal health domain, agri-food industry, academic world, professional associations and, indeed, the general public.

I have been advised that in recent years, through investment, innovation and partnerships, the Public Health Agency has increased its ability to provide evidence to guide the development of effective antimicrobial stewardship and infection prevention and control strategies. With regard to the status of the national strategy to which you referred, I do not have information but would be happy to make inquiries and report back to the chamber.

Senator Gold, thank you for that — it is much appreciated. I look forward to getting that answer.

The pandemic has shown that we are unprepared in research into the development of and manufacturing of vaccines. We are in a similarly lacking state when it comes to novel antimicrobial agents, those drugs that we need to treat bacterial infections that current antibiotics are ineffective against. What exactly is Canada doing now to make sure we have the research, development and manufacturing capabilities to deal with upcoming pandemics caused by antimicrobial-resistant organisms?

Senator Gold [ + ]

Thank you for your question. The pandemic indeed has illustrated some of the gaps in our ability in Canada to produce vaccines and highlighted, as it has in so many areas, the need for further investment in those areas. The government has made some investments in recent months in that area and will continue to work with its partners — the academic and scientific communities — to ensure that Canada is well positioned going forward.

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