Martin J. Blaser, MD, is one of the world’s foremost authorities on the human microbiome—and he proved it last year with the publication of his critically acclaimed, bestselling book, Missing Microbes, which helped lay audiences better understand the microbiome’s often complex make-up and the important role it plays in human health.
Now, Dr. Blaser will lend his expertise to the federal government—under a new initiative focused on combating antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a growing health problem in the United States and abroad.
U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia M. Burwell announced today that Dr. Blaser will chair the newly-formed Presidential Advisory Council on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, which will offer advice, information, and recommendations to HHS Secretary Burwell. The council also will help shape programs such as the National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, which aims to increase prevention and surveillance, identify and characterize resistant bacteria, and improve the research and development of new antibiotics and other interventions.
The Muriel G. and George W. Singer Professor of Translational Medicine and Professor of Microbiology at NYU Langone, Dr. Blaser is well known in the medical community and beyond for his high profile in bringing the topics of the microbiome and drug-resistant bacteria to the forefront of public debate. His appointment also is an acknowledgement of the innovative research produced at NYU Langone and the NYU School of Medicine over the past several decades that has led to greater understanding of these important topics.
“We are, indeed, proud that Dr. Blaser’s lifetime of work to better understand infectious diseases has been recognized through his appointment to lead this very important federal initiative,” said Robert I. Grossman, MD, the Saul J. Farber Dean and CEO of NYU Langone. “Dr. Blaser’s research also has given us a greater understanding of antibiotic use and its sometimes adverse effects on human metabolism and immunity. All of us at NYU Langone are confident Dr. Blaser will lead this group to important contributions and recommendations.”
Dr. Blaser and other scientists have cited the overuse of antibiotics fed to livestock to promote weight gain as well as those prescribed to humans as being among the key contributors to the growing public health threat. As a result, doctors and scientists have chronicled a dramatic rise in multidrug-resistant bacteria, including “superbugs,” as well as collateral damage to the human microbiome, the diverse collection of bacteria that inhabit the gut and make up our inner ecosystem.
Dr. Blaser, who also serves as director of NYU Langone’s Human Microbiome Program, is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine, former president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, former Chair of the Advisory Board for Clinical Research of the NIH, and co-editor of the authoritative Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases.
He was recently named to the 2015 edition of TIME magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World.”
“I am honored to take on these new responsibilities under the auspices of HHS,” Dr. Blaser said. “I applaud President Obama and Secretary Burwell for establishing this advisory council and, more importantly, for recognizing the importance of better understanding and addressing our overuse of antibiotics and its subsequent creation of deadly, drug-resistant bacteria.”