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A Parasite, a Virus, and a Bacterium: NIAID's Plan to Tackle the World's Leading Killers

Date: May 7, 2001
Source: National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Author: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

During an address this morning to international infectious disease specialists, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., unveiled the Institute's global plan to combat three leading infectious killers. The NIAID Global Health Research Plan for HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis provides short-, mid-, and long-term objectives for battling these diseases by building on the Institute's strong foundation in global infectious disease research.

"HIV, malaria, and TB combined kill more than five million people every year and greatly affect the health of the more than half billion people who live with one or more of these diseases," says Dr. Fauci. "By adding new international partnerships, expanding research programs, and providing international training opportunities, NIAID can help develop health strategies that are practical for use in endemic countries."

The plan addresses three diseases singled out by the Group of Eight nations in July 2000 in a pledge to reduce the devastating toll taken by these scourges worldwide, particularly in developing countries. The plan outlines NIAID's goals as it, too, focuses on this deadly troika.

In the 20 years since its first reported appearance, AIDS has skyrocketed to become the world's second leading cause of infectious disease deaths. Since the epidemic began, 57 million people have become infected with the AIDS virus and more than 21 million people have died. Malaria, a leading parasite killer of children in developing countries, affects up to 500 million people across the globe and kills one person every 10 to 15 seconds. Tuberculosis trails only lower respiratory infections and HIV/AIDS as an infectious cause of death. The TB bacterium currently infects one-third of the world's population, and eight million people develop disease symptoms each year.

The NIAID plan highlights four key research areas common to all three illnesses: vaccine and prevention studies, drug development, diagnostics, and enhancements to research capacity. Vaccine research remains a top priority of the plan. No vaccine has yet been developed for HIV or malaria, and although a vaccine exists for TB, it does not prevent the adult lung disease that ravages much of the world's population. In addition to vaccines, new drugs are needed to combat drug-resistant microbe strains that have emerged for each disease and to reduce the toxic side effects of many existing medications, particularly those used to treat HIV. Improved diagnostics will allow for more rapid and accurate identification of disease, allowing researchers to better assess the incidence of these diseases and permitting physicians to administer effective treatment more quickly.

To enhance these research efforts and hasten the application of promising strategies to the people who need them, NIAID's plan includes multiple goals for expanding research facilities within endemic areas and training local physicians and researchers so they can better provide for the needs of their communities. By strengthening international partnerships, the plan emphasizes treatment and prevention strategies that are effective and practical for use in individual areas.

The NIAID plan contains some of the goals previously set forth last December in the Global AIDS Research Initiative and Strategic Plan. That plan, compiled by the Office of AIDS Research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), highlights current AIDS research from all agencies within the NIH and outlines future objectives to address the global spread of the disease. The NIAID plan expands on elements of the NIH-wide AIDS research initiative and provides more comprehensive details of the Institute's plans in this arena.

"Infectious diseases pose incredibly complex challenges, with every step made by science countered by adaptations in the infectious organism," says Dr. Fauci. "To combat diseases like AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, leading research organizations must develop comprehensive plans that bring international scientists together to launch a multi-pronged attack; improving prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of these diseases in regions where they exact the highest tolls."

NIAID is a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NIAID supports basic and applied research to prevent, diagnose, and treat infectious and immune-mediated illnesses, including HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis, malaria, autoimmune disorders, asthma and allergies

A copy of the NIAID Global Health Research Plan for HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis can be found online at

Press releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the NIAID Web site at