Public Release: 

Report offers action plan for curbing diseases that kill millions

American Society for Microbiology

Washington D.C.-October 10, 2002-- In the next 15 seconds, a child somewhere in the world will die from diarrheal disease. It is estimated that between 6-60 billion cases of gastrointestinal illness occur worldwide every year.

Research has shown that every person is likely to get sick from an intestinal bacteria, virus or parasite at some point. Cases range from the "upset stomachs" that affect basically healthy people to serious infections of the digestive, nervous, and respiratory systems and the skin, eyes and muscles that lead to countless premature deaths in the developing world.

The global burden--the sum total of the incidence, severity, and duration of these illnesses--is addressed in "Resolving the Global Burden of Gastrointestinal Illness: A Call to Action." The new report from the American Academy of Microbiology focuses on understanding the threat these diseases pose to public health and what can be done about it.

By and large, the organisms that live in the intestine are introduced to the environment through human and animal waste. Although some of these enteric pathogens cannot survive long outside their host, many have developed mechanisms to live for days or months in and around the villages, towns, and cities where people have lived for centuries. Exposure to fecal contamination of the environment remains a leading cause of disease in the 21st century.

"Resolving the Global Burden of Gastrointestinal Illness: A Call to Action," takes a look at modes of transmission of gastrointestinal illness, data collection and disease monitoring issues, and the impacts of economic development and proper sanitation. The report presents the conclusions of twenty-four (24) prominent, international scientists with expertise in microbiology, infectious diseases, water safety, pollution, and public health. The group came together to discuss the current state of knowledge in the field and make recommendations for allocating resources to lessen the global burden of these illnesses.

The document makes specific recommendations for the clinical arena, research, education, disease prevention, and communication. The issues outlined include active surveillance and reporting systems, epidemiological training for clinicians and environmental health specialists, improved data collection during outbreaks, improved specimen collection and laboratory testing, new diagnostic techniques, collaborative funding programs and interdisciplinary research efforts.

###

The American Academy of Microbiology (AAM) is an honorific leadership group within the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) whose mission is to recognize excellence and foster knowledge in the microbiological sciences. Its programs include convening critical issues colloquia and developing consensus-building position papers that provide expert scientific opinion on current and emerging issues in microbiology.

AAM reports can be downloaded for free: http://www.asmusa.org/acasrc/academy.htm For more information and to get a hard copy of "Resolving the Global Burden of Gastrointestinal Illness: A Call to Action," contact Andrea Lohse at the American Academy of Microbiology (202)942-9292 or alohse@asmusa.org.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.