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Press Invitation: AIDS is not curable, tuberculosis on the advance worldwide

14.10.2005 - (idw) Leibniz-Gemeinschaft

Brussels. Old and new infectious diseases pose a major threat to mankind, ignoring borders and nationalities. This was demonstrated by the rapid propagation of the SARS virus last year. Avian Flu is a current issue and migratory wild birds could spread the disease to Europe. How dangerous is this scenario? How can infectious diseases be inhibited? Where can new therapies be applied and what are effective protection measures?

What are the challenges facing the international community and national health services? Answers will be forthcoming at the discussion forum in the Hanse-Office in Brussels on Tuesday, 18 October, at 6 pm. We have invited international policy makers to discuss and find out about the latest results of research together with well-known experts. Representatives of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the World Health Organization will report about their work and political challenges. Not all viruses are as harmless as those causing colds, which have afflicted many people in the last few weeks. During the last 40 years, the world community has been confronted again and again with new viruses, sometimes leading to life-threatening diseases, ranging from AIDS via Ebola to SARS. Bernhard Fleischer, Director of the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine (BNI) in Hamburg, explains: "Unfortunately, there's no evidence to suggest that this might change in the future. New viruses will keep cropping up". Consequently, the world should continue to be prepared for outbreaks of new pandemic diseases. "Most important is a world-wide early warning system with sufficient diagnostic capacity". Viruses as deadly as Ebola are extremely rare and do not pose a global threat. But respiratory viruses such as the SARS coronavirus can spread rapidly. There is a need to increase the research capacity to find novel diagnostic procedures and to learn more about viral diseases in general. This could be applied in many different ways, not least in identifying new viruses. "We anticipate that in animals there is a variety of still unknown viruses that are potentially dangerous for humans", the BNI Director warns.

However, even "old acquaintances" are causing doctors anxiety. Tuberculosis, for example, is enjoying a "quiet" comeback on all continents. Every year, more than eight million new infections are registered; every year, more than two million people die of the infection worldwide. Sabine Rüsch-Gerdes, Head of the National Reference Center for Mycobacteria and scientist at the Research Center Borstel, Schleswig Holstein, and Ms Abigail B. Wright, Stop TB Department at the World Health Organization, are internationally renowned experts on tuberculosis. They know how the battle against the disease can be won. "The best means of counteracting the spread of tuberculosis is to break the infection chain to prevent new strains from developing", Rüsch-Gerdes notes. However, poverty, corruption, a lack of money and medical infrastructure obstruct the fight against tuberculosis in many regions of the world, although the costs for therapy are affordable. Rüsch-Gerdes claims, "The health systems in badly-affected countries must be stabilised. Providing help there is the best method of prevention for Europe."

AIDS is another infectious disease on the advance. The HI-virus has lost nothing of its threat potential. The number of new infections is growing. What is fatal is that there is a disastrous common belief amongst young people that there are effective drugs to combat the disease. Joachim Hauber, Director of the Heinrich-Pette-Institute for Experimental Virology and Immunology (HPI) at the University of Hamburg, straightens out the point, "AIDS is not curable. Therapies for HIV infections have to be continued for an entire lifetime. And some of the drugs currently available have proved to have serious toxic side-effects." The increasing number of resistant viruses presented a particular danger. The known agents have had no effect on them. Joachim Hauber thinks that research, politics and the pharmaceutical industry have a joint responsibility, "New and improved antivirals agents are urgently needed. This will only come about if there is a greater emphasis on HIV basic research".

In his keynote speech, Dr. Peet Tüll, Senior Expert at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) in Sweden, will inform the audience about the role of the ECDC, the forthcoming political necessities and what role research can play. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control is a new EU agency that has been created to help strengthen Europe's defences against infectious diseases.

Tuesday, 18 October 2005
Joint Office of the States of Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein
20, Avenue Palmerston

6:05 pm Opening and Welcome

Jörg Dräger, Ph. D.
Minister of Science and Health,
Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg

Dr. Hellmut Körner
State Secretary in the State Ministry of Social Affairs and Health
of Schleswig-Holstein

6:15 pm Keynote Speech

Dr. Peet Tüll
Senior Expert
European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)

6:30 pm Discussion

Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Ernst Th. Rietschel
Vice President Leibniz Association

Ms Abigail B. Wright, M.P.H.
Stop TB Department, World Health Organization

Prof. Dr. Bernhard Fleischer
Director of the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine

Prof. Dr. Joachim Hauber
Scientific Director of the Heinrich Pette Institute for Experimental Virology and Immunology

Dr. Sabine Rüsch-Gerdes
Head of the National and European Reference Laboratory for Mycobacteria

Mr Martin Virtel
Financial Times Deutschland

8:00 pm Closing Remarks
Roland Freudenstein
Director Hanse-Office

8:05 pm Reception and Poster Presentation

The conference language will be English.

Please confirm your attendance:

Phone +32-2-2854640
Fax +32-2-2854657

The symposium is a joint event of the Leibniz Association and the Hanse-Office:

Leibniz Association
The Leibniz Association is a network of 84 scientifically, legally and economically independent institutes with a total budget of of 1.1 bn ¤ 13.000 employees. Leibniz Institutes perform problem oriented research and offer scientific service of international significance. They foster close co-operations with universities, industry, and other research institutes. Leibniz researchers keep to highest standards of excellence. They strive for scientific solutions for major challenges of society. The tasks are characterized by an interdisciplinary approach. They range from humanities, regional research, and economics to the social and natural sciences, life sciences, engineering to environmental research. The Leibniz Association has developed a stringent system of quality management. In this unique peer review process, independent experts assess every institute at regular intervals.


Founded in 1985, the Hanse-Office was the first regional office in Brussels. It is a common institution of the German Länder Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein. Its main task is to inform decision makers at an early stage about EU politics, legislative procedures and funding programmes. Moreover, it actively promotes the interests of the regions through activities like conferences, work shops and cultural events in Brussels.
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