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Feds' infectious diseases strategy must be broader than biodefense, say ID physicians

As Congress updates anti-bioterrorism legislation, it must take action now to protect the nation against the pressing threats of pandemic influenza, antibiotic-resistant infections, and other serious naturally occurring infections, according to the nation's leading society of infectious diseases physicians and researchers.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Health is considering reauthorization of the Project BioShield Act, legislation passed in 2004 that is designed to spur companies into making countermeasures against a bioterrorist attack.

However, in testimony before the subcommittee today, Martin J. Blaser, MD, president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), emphasized a different threat, one that infectious diseases physicians witness every day: the burden of antimicrobial-resistant infections such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

"Antimicrobial resistant infections have created a 'silent epidemic' in communities and hospitals across the country," Dr. Blaser said, crippling and killing a growing number of otherwise-healthy people and driving up health care costs. To make matters worse, the pharmaceutical industry has lost interest in developing new antibiotics to fight these infections because they are not as profitable as drugs for chronic conditions such as heart disease. IDSA outlined this problem and proposed solutions in its July 2004 report, Bad Bugs, No Drugs: As Antibiotic Discovery StagnatesA Public Health Crisis Brews.

Also, Dr. Blaser noted, "the impact of an influenza pandemic cannot be overstated." Even a mild pandemic would claim hundreds of thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars. H5N1 is showing ominous signs of becoming a pandemic strain, and despite increased attention to the problem, Dr. Blaser said, "the Institute of Medicine and virtually all experts conclude that the United States is woefully unprepared" for a flu pandemic.
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Contact: Diana Olson
dolson@idsociety.org
Infectious Diseases Society of America
6-Apr-2006


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