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Infectious Diseases Society of America's 45th Annual Meeting, Oct. 4-7, 2007

Infectious Diseases Society of America's 45th Annual Meeting

The Infectious Diseases Society of America's 45th Annual Meeting took place Oct. 4-7 in San Diego, Calif., drew more than 5,000 attendees from around the world, and presented over 1,000 abstracts. Topics included emerging threats such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections and nosocomial Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea, fresh insights into Lyme disease and HIV, and calls for increased funding to help control the spread of infectious diseases.

"MRSA is the biggest thing that's happened in infectious diseases since HIV," said Sarah Long, M.D., chair of the meeting's program planning committee, chief of infectious diseases at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children, and professor of pediatrics at the Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. "It's globally important because it's the perfect storm of virulence, competitiveness, and ability to cause disease, mostly skin and soft-tissue disease, but also pneumonia and infections of the liver and heart valves."

Another major topic of discussion -- C. difficile-associated diarrhea -- has gone beyond its initial association with fluoroquinalone antibiotics to a disease that can occur in patients who "have never had an antibiotic but who have been exposed to a high density of spores in the community from family members or a contaminated environment, especially in hospitals," Long said. C. difficile disease was the subject of a late breaker symposium and poster session.

Julie Figueroa, M.D., of the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, presented a study showing how a universal bleach-based cleaning protocol for all discharges in a hospital rehabilitation unit reduced the incidence of C. difficile disease by 68 percent even though antibiotic usage remained stable.

One of the meeting's general themes was how infectious diseases are related to almost every aspect of daily life, from travel, food safety and sexual health to child health, cancer and aging-related issues, said Henry Masur, M.D., of the National Institutes of Health and president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

"Infectious disease is pervasive in society," Masur said. "The public and Congress should recognize the importance of this and the need to invest in health care infrastructure so we have good surveillance techniques. We also need new investment in drug development because session after session emphasized the fact that there are not enough new drugs for combating organisms such as MRSA and drug-resistant tuberculosis."

One of the most exciting sessions, according to both Long and Masur, was "Who Are We? Explorations of the Human Indigenous Microbiota," which was presented by David Relman, M.D., of Stanford University in Stanford, Calif. "Using very sophisticated molecular techniques, he and his colleagues showed that there are many more microorganisms in the human body than there are human cells," Masur said. "He also showed some data demonstrating the rich diversity of microorganisms which we're currently unable to culture and introduced the concept that as we learn what these organisms are, we may see a relationship to a whole variety of human conditions that don't appear to be infectious."

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