The President
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

As the Administration enters the final stages of preparing its FY 1998 budget, the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) strongly urges that funding be increased for the budgets of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and that new funding be provided for emerging infectious diseases.

On June 12, 1996 Vice-President Gore announced a new Presidential initiative to "wage war against one of the greatest threats to our health -- emerging infectious diseases." The Vice President pointed out that even if the death toll from AIDS is excluded, the death rate from infectious diseases in the United States increased by more than 20 percent in the past decade. In the past two decades, many new and emerging infectious diseases have been identified such as toxic shock syndrome, Legionnaires, E. coli O157:H7, multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, hantavirus, Ebola and chronic fatigue syndrome, just to name a few. The growing problems of antibiotic resistance and the microbial contamination of our water and food supply are a few of the serious problems we face in the U.S.

Vice-President Gore outlined Presidential initiatives to strengthen America's role and ability to protect the nation and the global community from the threat of emerging infectious diseases. Components of the new Administration policy include establishing a national surveillance system so that the nation will be better prepared to act quickly and effectively whenever and wherever infectious diseases emerge. A major component of the new policy is to strengthen research and training at NIH in infectious diseases. Biomedical research supported by the NIH forms the foundation for surveillance and response, providing basic research tools such as diagnostics, vaccines and therapies.

The Administration and Congress have recognized the problem of new and emerging infectious diseases and have provided a 'down payment' in FY 1997 to the CDC to begin implementing the national plan to detect, combat and prevent infectious diseases and to the NIH to continue research and training into why these infectious diseases are emerging and how best to treat them. We urge the Administration to make a concerted effort to ensure increased funding for the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and to provide the needed funding levels in FY 1998 for emerging infectious disease programs funded by the NIH and the CDC.

Thank you for your consideration during this period of severe fiscal constraints.