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ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- In light of new emerging infections such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), West Nile virus and monkeypox, and increasing resistance to antimicrobials, the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) is urging Congress to provide significant funding increases for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Center for Infectious Diseases (NCID), particularly the center's antimicrobial resistance and emerging infections programs.
Antimicrobial resistance is a natural phenomenon whereby the genetic make-up of infectious microbes permits them to mutate rapidly, causing them to become less susceptible to available antibiotics. Drug resistance poses a major threat to public health as patients with serious and life-threatening infections and people with whom they come in contact are placed at greater risk. In 2001, CDC and other federal agencies developed an interagency action plan to combat antimicrobial resistance. However, implementation of this critical plan has been stalled due to lack of funding.
"At a time when the pipeline of new antimicrobial drugs is drying up and new infections are emerging, NCID's efforts to protect the effectiveness of currently approved antimicrobials has become even more critical," said IDSA President W. Michael Scheld, MD. "As fewer products come to market, existing antimicrobials are all we have to protect us from new and emerging infections and potential bioterrorism agents."
NCID recently initiated a 12-step program to educate physicians and other health care providers about antimicrobial resistance and to protect the effectiveness of antimicrobial drug products. NCID also routinely conducts surveillance across the country to collect critical data about evolving resistance and to monitor and assess the impact of drug resistance. Despite the importance of this work, antimicrobial resistance programs received no increase in the House or Senate Appropriations Committee bills. IDSA recommends a $25 million increase for NCID's antimicrobial resistance programs, for a total commitment of $50 million in FY 2004.
In 1998, NCID published its plan for preventing emerging infectious diseases, such as SARS and West Nile virus, through strategies related to surveillance and response, applied research, infrastructure and training, and prevention and control. This work is underway, but much more needs to be done. Although NCID's emerging infections programs received a small increase under both the House and Senate Appropriations Committee bills, the increase does not come close to the $260 million that CDC officials estimate is needed to implement the 1998 plan.
Infectious diseases are the second leading cause of death worldwide and the third leading cause of death in the United States. During the debate over H.R. 2122, "the Project Bioshield Act," lawmakers have recognized that antibiotic-resistant organisms and naturally occurring infections are "emerging threats to both public health and national security."
"Given the threats that infectious diseases pose, now is not the time to shortchange NCID," said Scheld. "The health of our patients and our nation is at stake."