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Infectious Diseases Society of America's 44th Annual Meeting, Oct. 12-15, 2006

Infectious Diseases Society of America's 44th Annual Meeting

The Infectious Diseases Society of America's 44th annual meeting took place Oct. 12-15 in Toronto, attracting 4,000 participants from the United States and overseas. The meeting featured groundbreaking scientific research on AIDS and antibiotic resistance, as well as news about progress towards a world treaty on infectious diseases.

"The meeting went extremely well," said Arturo Casadevall, M.D., Ph.D., of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, and chair of the annual meeting program committee. "There are some nasty bugs and they're always going to be a problem. Unlike every other specialty of medicine, they change all the time. But there were some uplifting stories, too."

Casadevall added, "Next year, we'll have new problems. But there is a note of optimism, because it looks like new antibiotic therapy is being developed. It's been a huge problem because of antibiotic resistance, but there is a sense that industry is responding and new agents are in the pipeline."

One of the keynote speakers, Harvey Rubin, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, discussed his efforts to get the United Nations to embrace the idea of a treaty aimed at coping with infectious disease problems, Casadevall said.

"With the realization that infectious diseases know no borders, he showed that they don't have a single treaty addressing the problem of how to deal with infectious diseases. When SARS occurred, or if we have the flu, there is no treaty between nations on how to deal with this problem," said Casadevall. "I thought it was positive because these things take time. We need to have treaties for reporting and containment, and the dialogue is beginning."

Another speaker, Wafaa El-Sadr, M.D., of Harlem Hospital in New York, discussed the impact of her work building support for HIV-infected families in the United States and Africa. It started years ago, when El-Sadr found HIV-infected patients in economic and social distress, according to Casadevall.

"She began to create support groups and made a big difference in New York City, and she expanded the idea in Africa. In collaboration with different groups, she created systems for creating support groups for patients. She showed that in a society where 25 percent of people are HIV-infected, she was able to make a big difference," Casadevall said. "She got a standing ovation."

The meeting also featured grim news about infectious diseases and the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.

A research team led by Kathryn Como-Sabetti, M.P.H., of the Minnesota Department of Health and Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota in Minneapolis, reported that taking antibiotics increases the risk of community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection. And Lisa S. Young, M.D., of the University of Colorado at Denver, and colleagues reported that community-acquired methicillin-resistant S. aureus infection is linked to necrotizing fasciitis.

"In the past, methicillin-resistant S. aureus was a problem primarily in hospitals," said Casadevall. "Now we're finding it's spread to some people in the community, and it's totally devastating."

Numerous presentations focused on the problem of Clostridium difficile colitis, an antibiotic-associated infection, Casadevall said. "What is new is that the problem is getting much worse. In the past, those who got it were primarily hospitalized people who got antibiotics. Now it's occurring in relatively healthy people."

In other news, women with AIDS treated with highly active antiretroviral therapy are doing well. But even when the virus cannot be detected in the women's blood, "the bit of news is that you can still find it in vaginal fluids," said Casadevall. "The message there is once you're infected, safe sex always."

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