Scientists Congregate in Chicago for Major Disease Conference

by VR Sreeraman on Sep 17 2007 12:43 PM

Thousands of physicians and scientists meet Monday in Chicago to tackle the growing resistance of germs to antibiotics and the effects of global warming on them, at the world's biggest conference on disease-causing microbes.

For the first time at the annual event, "the keynote session is going to be on climate change and the impact on human disease," Jim Sliwa, spokesman for the American Society for Microbiology which is organizing the event, told AFP.

"We know that climate change is going to change the pattern of infectious diseases," he said. "There are so many variables that we don't know what's going to happen."

"As global average temperature increases, we know ... for example, the malaria line in mountainous regions will continue to rise. This is fairly certain because above a certain altitude mosquitoes can't live," he said.

"We know also in the tropics influenza is year-round. There is no influenza season, so as the temperature rises the tropical areas expand and we'll get more year-round influenza."

Presentations at the conference will address the problem of drug-resistant microbes such as tuberculosis, which kills two million people each year.

Pharmaceutical labs will present research on growing challenges such as the resistance of certain staphylococcus bacteria, known as SARM, to antibiotics -- a source of many in-hospital infections, the association said.

They will also discuss the risks of a possible epidemic of a form of bird flu that is dangerous to humans and that could be passed from person to person.

Also on the agenda will be the results of clinical trials on the effectiveness of anti-retroviral therapies on cancers in people carrying HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

British researchers are to make a presentation on the antibiotic effects of statin drugs, which reduce cholesterol. Research seems to have revealed the mechanism by which chemical action of the liver gives the anti-cholesterol drugs anti-microbe properties.

The association also plans to publish results of a survey on preventive hygiene, which looks at hand-washing habits among Americans. It examined the number of people who wash their hands after using public restrooms.

Other studies have shown that a worldwide campaign launched in 2005 by the World Health Organization to prompt medical personnel to wash and disinfect themselves before touching a patient yielded encouraging results, according to the conference program.

Inadequate hand-washing among doctors and nurses is responsible for millions of infections in hospitals around the world.

Some 12,000 participants including researchers from France, Japan, and Britain will in Chicago for the event, titled the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. It runs to Thursday.