ASM Statement on Ebola Response

Sept. 17, 2016


The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) applauds the Administration’s announcement on September 16 to expand Department of Defense (DOD) logistical capabilities, medical expertise and resources to respond more rapidly to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. This epidemic continues to spread with dire consequences for global health and economic well-being. The effort to reduce transmission is a race against time and will require unprecedented financial resources and human expertise, both from the United States and from international organizations. It is essential that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) be supported at the levels needed to provide the public health response to this international health crisis. There must be sustained funding to provide the public health infrastructure and rapid response capabilities needed to deal with future outbreaks of highly infectious diseases. 

While providing logistical and medical support in West Africa is an urgent step, it will be vaccines and therapeutics that remove Ebola as a global threat. The ASM urges the Administration and the Congress of the United States to provide increased and sustained funding for the research supported by the NIH that is needed to develop the vaccines and therapeutics to combat Ebola and to protect humanity from this disease. Rapid diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for Ebola and other infectious disease agents as well as knowledge about fundamental aspects of emerging virus biology must be developed. This knowledge is the ultimate source of new ideas and solutions to epidemics and pandemics that are certain to arise.  

Sustained support is also needed for the Food and Drug Administration which plays an important role in drug development. As candidate vaccines and therapeutics are developed that have the potential to help contain the outbreak and offer broad protection against Ebola, expedited approval processes and government support will be needed to make them available rapidly. It is also critical to maintain a global surveillance system to detect emerging infections early enough to contain and eliminate them before they spread and present a  grave public health and security crisis as has occurred in the West African Ebola outbreak. 

Ebola will not be the last virus to evolve into a major health and security threat.  The only way to stay ahead of the rapid evolution of microorganisms and the inevitable emergence of new diseases is to support infectious disease research and public health agencies that can respond rapidly when outbreaks occur. This requires adequate and predictable funding, training of personnel, and safe and secure facilities.