As concern grows about the use of biological agents in acts of terrorism or war, Federal health agencies are evaluating and accelerating measures to protect the public from the health consequences of such an attack. In 1996, when NIAID made public its Research Agenda for Emerging Diseases, intentional introduction of infectious agents was not discussed explicitly. However, recent events have reminded us that bioterrorism can be a major contributor in disease emergence.
Our ability to detect and prevent infections related to bioterrorist incidents depends to a large degree on the state of biomedical science. Basic and applied research supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) complements the efforts of other Federal agencies by developing the essential tools—diagnostics, therapeutics,and vaccines—that are needed by physicians, nurses, epidemiologists, and other public health workers to prevent and control a disease outbreak. NIAID is the primary NIH Institute that supports and conducts research on the diagnosis,prevention, and treatment of infections caused by a wide variety of emerging pathogens, including agents that could be intentionally introduced.
The Institute has developed a Strategic Plan for Biodefense Research at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which outlines plans for addressing research needs in the broad area of bioterrorism and emerging and reemerging infectious diseases. (See Appendix B.) This Biodefense Research Agenda supplements the strategic plan and articulates the goals for research on anthrax, smallpox, plague, botulism, tularemia, and viral hemorrhagic fevers. The research agenda focuses on the need for basic research on the biology of the microbe, the host response, and basic and applied research aimed at the development of diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines against these agents. In addition, the agenda addresses the research resources, facilities, and scientific manpower needed to conduct both basic and applied research on these agents.