A bill designed to stem the spread of antibiotic-resistant infections has been drafted by Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.

The legislation is being proposed in response to a recent increase in cases of drug-resistant strains of staph infections being found in schools nationwide.

The main proposal in the bill is a new federal Office of Antimicrobial Resistance that would coordinate activities of agencies that monitor and develop treatment for infectious diseases. Those agencies include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Defense.

Measures to monitor the use of antibiotics by health-care providers nationwide are also called for in the bill. Public health administrators say overuse of antibiotics is the chief contributor to the dramatic rise of infectious organisms that can't be stopped by current antibiotic treatments.

"Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that resistant strains of infections have spread rapidly," Hatch said.

The methicillin-Staphylococcus aureus, known as MRSA, is a strain of staph infection that is resistant to penicillin and other related antibiotics. While MRSA was previously thought to be limited to hospitals, it is now found throughout schools and communities.

In Salt Lake City, the number of children with MRSA infections at Primary Children's Medical Center has increased by almost twentyfold since 1989, Hatch said. "This alarming trend continues to grow, and treatment options are sorely lacking."

Brown said the legislation and action are needed immediately. "Drug-resistant infections are a serious threat that the health community needs to address quickly. It is downright scary that diseases once curable are suddenly deadly again."

During the past month, several school districts in Ohio had staph infection outbreaks, forcing students to be sent home early, the closing of weight rooms, and the need to have professional cleaners disinfect the premises.

The CDC estimates that 90,000 Americans get the deadly strain of staph infection each year.