May 7, 2003 - ASM Testifies on FY 2004 Budgets for the NIH and CDC

Presented by ASM President Ronald M. Atlas, Ph.D.

The ASM urges your support for sustaining budgetary growth for the National Institutes of Health and also continuing critical support for the vital public health programs of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The ASM recommends that Congress approve a 10 percent overall increase in the FY 2004 budget for NIH, which would bring its total funding to $30 billion. An increase of 10 percent is vital for NIH to sustain the extraordinary progress in medical research that built impressive momentum during the past 5 years. That progress is a direct result of the foresight of Congress, which during those 5 years doubled the federal investment in NIH supported biomedical research.

The ASM, representing more than 42,000 members in the microbiological sciences, is particularly concerned with threats from both naturally occurring infectious diseases and from bioterrorism.

We look to NIH generally and to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in particular to foster research to develop safe and effective countermeasures against biological threat agents-and to develop new and better detection methods, diagnostics, and drugs to defend against bioterrorist attacks. The threat of bioterrorism expands the responsibilities of the biomedical community and heightens the importance of NIAID-supported research to develop new and better means for detecting, diagnosing, treating or preventing naturally occurring infectious diseases. The ASM supports the $1.6 billion for biodefense research in the NIAID FY 2004 budget request.

The NIAID biodefense research program comprises a continuum of research to combat naturally occurring emerging and reemerging infectious diseases that threaten public health at the national and global levels. While a good deal of funding currently targets biothreat agents, this investment will also significantly improve our broader understanding of infectious diseases, including basic pathogenesis and immune defense processes. Insights from these research investments will pay dividends that can be applied to other pressing public health problems. Efforts directed against SARS and those extending over the past few decades to deal with other novel diseases agents such as Hantavirus, West Nile virus, Hepatitis C virus, and HIV/AIDS-to name only a few such threats-emphatically rule out complacency regarding the ever-changing challenge of infectious diseases.

Going beyond research, we must revitalize the public health system. The SARS outbreak underscores the imperative of strengthening the CDC and the Nation's overall public health capacity. The ASM also urges Congress to appropriate $7.9 billion for CDC in FY 2004.

Within the proposed CDC budget, the ASM is concerned about several specific items: particularly, the $332 million to fund the CDC infectious disease control program, which would be a decrease of $3 million from FY 2003. The ASM urges Congress to provide an additional $93 million to CDC in FY 2004, an amount that would enable CDC investigators to meet critical goals outlined in their emerging disease strategic plan.

In 2002, the CDC announced its Global Infectious Disease Strategy, to create effective collaborations with international partners against the emergence and spread of infectious diseases. If ignored, infectious disease anywhere could spread into disaster. The ASM recommends that Congress allocate an additional $9 million for global infectious disease activities.

Antimicrobial resistance is a frightening trend found in a widening range of disease agents. A recent study at Harvard concluded that by the summer of 2004, as many as 40 percent of the strains of Streptococcus pneumoniae - which causes thousands of cases of ear infections, pneumonia, meningitis, and sinusitis every year - could be resistant to both penicillin and erythromycin. Government agencies joined the CDC in 2001 to address this trend under the Public Health Action Plan to Combat Antimicrobial Resistance. The ASM recommends that an increase of $13 million be appropriated for antimicrobial resistance programs.

In closing, the ASM recognizes that these are difficult economic times. But our future health and security depends upon the investments we make today in the biomedical research of the NIH and the public health response system of the CDC. Failure to do so imperils the Nation's future in light of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases and the threat of bioterrorism.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify.