September 2, 1997 - International Programs to Control of Infectious Diseases

We are writing on behalf of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), the largest single life science organization in the world comprising more than 42,000 members, regarding the House/Senate conference committee on the Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Bill for FY 1998. The ASM, whose members include leading scientists performing infectious disease research, is extremely concerned about the threat of new and reemerging infectious diseases. Enclosed is a copy of a recent ASM report on this threat to humankind. The ASM strongly endorses the Child Survival and Diseases Programs Fund and urges you to: 1) support the House level for the Communicable Disease Initiative which would provide at least $50 million in additional funds to strengthen global surveillance and control of infectious diseases; 2) explicitly include the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the group of agencies that the Agency for International Development (USAID) should consult with prior to obligating the additional funds.

The ASM supports the current language in the Senate Report recommending that USAID consult with the World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and other agencies involved in international health and the Appropriations Committee before obligating the additional funds. Such consultation will help encourage collaboration among the agencies in mounting new efforts against infectious diseases. We strongly recommend, however, that you add the NIAID to the group of consulting agencies. The NIAID is the lead federal agency in sponsoring and conducting basic and clinical research on infectious diseases. NIAID already has a number of research centers operating in developing nations worldwide. These centers are conducting research and research training on a range of infectious diseases, including malaria, HIV/AIDS, dengue fever, ebola, and drug resistant tuberculosis. By including the NIAID in the consultative/collaborative process, you will ensure that the strong international research infrastructure supported by the NIAID and its critical efforts to develop new strategies to prevent and control infectious diseases, can be leveraged to further advance USAID's work in surveillance and control. The collaboration will enhance the effectiveness of both agencies and benefit the people that we seek to help.

The NIAID has a longstanding role in studying infectious diseases worldwide. In 1960, passage of the International Health Act gave the NIAID the authority to conduct research outside the United States. NIAID provides major support for scientists conducting research to prevent and control emerging infectious diseases worldwide. In FY 1996, the NIAID in collaboration with USAID managed research programs dealing with vector-borne diseases in the Middle East, provided malaria research and training in Mali, and technical support to the World Health Organization and other United Nations Programs in HIV/AIDS, tropical medicine, infectious diseases, vaccine development and immunology.

The NIAID research mission in infectious diseases, HIV/AIDS and allergic diseases is of global importance because together these diseases constitute the most common preventable causes of human death and disease worldwide. NIAID is participating in an ongoing interagency governmental effort, under the auspices of the National Science and Technology Council's Committee on International Science, Engineering, and Technology, to improve the national and international system of infectious disease surveillance, prevention and response.

Vice President Gore's Presidential Decision Directive on Emerging Infectious Diseases designated the NIH as the lead agency to strengthen research efforts in the biology and pathology of infectious agents and on the development of new tools to prevent, detect and control emerging diseases. No infectious disease can be successfully eradicated without the involvement of the medical research community. NIAID participation with USAID is essential to ensure that the research community has the opportunity to interact with USAID efforts to combat infectious diseases. Inclusion of the NIAID in this effort will facilitate the involvement of universities and their investigators throughout the United States, and thus will provide interaction of this important sector with those engaged in prevention and control. It will ensure use of the strong international research laboratory infrastructure and the network of NIAID international investigators as well.

Thank you for your consideration of this important request. The NIAID will provide important technical advice in the decision making process to maximize USAID's efforts in combating infectious diseases internationally.