Date: Monday, June 10, 1996 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Greg Folkers (301)402-1663, Folkers@nih.gov
Fauci: Basic and Clinical Research Key to Fighting Emerging Diseases
A strong commitment to basic and clinical research is critical to the nation's preparedness for emerging and re-emerging diseases, says Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).
Dr. Fauci will discuss the NIAID research approach to confronting new and newly recognized pathogens in a lecture during a conference of the National Council for International Health (NCIH), "Global Health: Future Risks, Present Needs," at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City Hotel in Arlington, Va.
Also addressing the conference will be James M. Hughes, M.D., director of the National Center for Infectious Diseases of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who will discuss the CDC's role in combatting emerging infectious diseases.
The talks are part of a plenary session called "Perspectives on New and Re-emerging Diseases," to be held at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, June 11. The session will be moderated by George Curlin, Ph.D., deputy director of NIAID's Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. Other scheduled speakers in the plenary session include Stephen Joseph, M.D., of the Department of Defense, and Peggy Hamburg, M.D., New York City Health Commissioner.
"Historically, basic and clinical research has provided the tools for scientists to identify the organisms responsible for new diseases, and facilitated the development of diagnostic tests, treatments and vaccines," Dr. Fauci says. "Such research, especially in immunology, microbiology and infectious diseases, is the cornerstone of NIAID's comprehensive program for enhancing our ability to detect and control new or newly recognized pathogens."
In addition, on Wednesday, June 12, Dr. Fauci will receive the NCIH Leadership in Health Award for his work in promoting public awareness of international health issues.
Infectious diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide and the third leading cause of death among Americans. Since 1973, approximately 30 newly identified infectious diseases and syndromes have been recognized worldwide. These include the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease, gastrointestinal disease due to Cryptosporidium parvum, a new form of cholera, Legionnaire's disease, Ebola hemorrhagic fever, liver disease due to hepatitis C virus, and the hantavirus pulmonary syndrome.
Other diseases such as pneumococcal pneumonia and tuberculosis, once considered under control, are re-emerging because of the development of drug-resistant organisms and other factors.
"Clearly, the war against infectious diseases is far from over," says Dr. Fauci. "New and improved strategies for controlling diseases are crucial. With the availability of the modern tools of molecular biology, such advances are possible with innovative research underpinned by a strong research base."
According to Dr. Fauci, examples of recent successes in battling emerging diseases, directly attributable to basic research, include:
The identification of HIV, facilitated by significant advances in viral biology, including the discovery of the reverse transcriptase enzyme and retroviruses in the 1970s.
The rapid characterization -- within weeks of the first cases -- of the virus responsible for the hantavirus pulmonary syndrome first seen in the Southwestern United States. This accomplishment was made possible by the virologic expertise and laboratory reagents developed over decades of research into similar viruses.
Saliva- and urine-based tests that will enable physicians to make accurate diagnoses even in the absence of sophisticated laboratory support. A urine test for chlamydia and a saliva test for HIV have been licensed in the United States.
The luciferase phage assay for tuberculosis, which can determine the drug sensitivity of the strain of the TB bacterium a patient is carrying.
Kynolic acids for TB, developed with genetic engineering techniques. These therapeutic agents are effective against both drug-sensitive and drug-resistant tuberculosis.
Inhibitors of the protease enzyme of HIV, made possible by basic virology research and the tools of x-ray crystallography.
Acellular pertussis vaccines that contain only portions of the pertussis organism, thus avoiding the toxicity sometimes observed with the licensed whole-cell pertussis vaccines.
Promising recombinant vector vaccines for HIV, based on harmless viruses that undergo limited replication in people. These viruses are genetically engineered to make HIV proteins.
NIAID is a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NIAID conducts and supports research to prevent, diagnose and treat illnesses such as AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis, asthma and allergies. NIH is an agency of the U.S. Public Health Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
NIAID press releases, fact sheets and other materials are available on the internet via the NIAID home page. The address is http://www.niaid.nih.gov.