Duke's Alexander chairs IDSA annual meeting

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA) had its annual meeting Oct. 20-23 in Boston, and Duke’s own Barbara Alexander, MD, associate professor of medicine (Infectious Diseases) and pathology, chaired the event.

“This year marked the anniversary of many key events for the field of infectious disease,” said Alexander. “Ten years since the anthrax mail attacks in the U.S., 30 years of fighting HIV, and 45 years since the report linking infections to blood neutrophil levels.”

Alexander said the most difficult job as chair was putting together a balanced program to encompass the scientific interests of the multiple different subspecialties within the field, including pediatric and adult ID, HIV, public health, healthcare epidemiology, and basic science and clinical research.  More than 1600 scientific abstracts were received; of these, approximately 1100 were ultimately selected for presentation following peer-review. View the interactive online program.

“It’s interesting to see how much planning it takes over the course of a year to pull together an international meeting,” Alexander said.

Almost 5,000 physicians and and scientists attended the three-day event, including many members of Duke’s Division of Infectious Diseases.

Bart Haynes, MD, professor of medicine and director of the Human Vaccine Institute and former chair of the Department, received the Alexander Fleming Award at the meeting. (See previous post.) The Alexander Fleming Award is granted in recognition of a career that reflects major contributions to the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge about infectious diseases. Dr. Haynes will receive a $3,500 honorarium.

John Perfect, MD, interim chief of the division, was proud of Duke’s representation at the meeting.

“Congratulations to Bart on receiving this prestigious award and Barbara on being called upon to lead this national meeting,” Dr. Perfect said. “Both are outstanding physician scientists and represent the standard of excellence that we strive to achieve within the Duke infectious disease community.”

Alexander said this year’s meeting not only addressed infectious disease milestones, but also looked toward the future challenges facing ID researchers.

“There was a lot of data addressing  the antimicrobial resistance crisis, particularly in gram negative pathogens, and the limited antibiotic dug development  pipeline ,” said Alexander. “Health care acquired infections and Hepatitis C were also discussed. “

Alexander said a CDC study presented at the IDSA meeting documented that there are now more Hep C related than HIV-related deaths annually in America. “Clearly, Hepatitis C is a major, emerging public health threat in the U.S.

“And of course there was ground breaking research presented on the ‘hot’ new area of interest, the ‘microbiome,’” said Alexander. “There’s a lot of attention being focused on the organisms that inhabit our body and their role in protecting and predisposing us to infections and other diseases. This new information is paving the way for a better understanding of human health and disease.”