COVID-19 Updates Dominate IDWeek Lineup

Marcia Frellick

September 28, 2021

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

Two of the three late-breaking abstract sessions coming up this week at the Infectious Disease Week (IDWeek) 2021 Annual Meeting are filled with the most recent evidence on COVID-19 prevention and treatment.

Dr Adarsh Bhimraj

Adarsh Bhimraj, MD, a vice chair of the conference, told Medscape Medical News attendees will leave the virtual conference with an up-to-date view of what's promising in the fight against COVID-19 globally and what questions are as yet unanswered.

Researchers will also present findings on promising new antibiotics in the pipeline, stewardship efforts, health disparities, telemedicine advances, and emerging pathogens, but at least a quarter of the program is devoted to COVID-19.

"It's hard to ignore the elephant in the room," Bhimraj said.

Vaccine distribution will be among the hot topics at the global conference, he said, in light of the recent decisions by the US Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to reserve boosters for those at greatest risk.

Although the United States and other high-resource countries are deciding who should get boosters, only 10% of the developing world has received even a single dose, he noted.

The conference will also present a worldwide view of scientific collaboration to address the COVID pandemic and pandemics yet to come, Bhimraj said.

He highlighted a talk on October 2, to be delivered by South African human rights attorney and social justice activist Fatima Hassan, called "Global Vaccines and Preventive Care Inequities: Implications and Solutions Beyond the Pandemic."

The session looks ahead to building systems to share resources and knowledge to end deadly outbreaks with an equitable approach.

"We live in a global village," Bhimraj said. "It isn't just the right thing to do, it's the pragmatic thing to do."

Controversies in Non-COVID Diseases

Controversies and new treatments are plentiful in other diseases as well.

  • At an HIV session, arguments will be presented regarding the sustainability and practicalities of telemedicine in HIV. Speakers will argue for and against telemedicine as a permanent practice changer for the field.

  • In a session on October 1, panelists will discuss pros and cons of information published in preprints vs peer-reviewed journals and how to assess when research findings should lead to practice change.

  • Also on October 1, panelists in a symposium will discuss advantages and disadvantages of antifungal treatments for children who have received solid organ transplants.

  • Antimicrobial stewardship continues to be a primary topic at IDWeek, this year with additional pandemic challenges. Sessions will address trends in use and diagnostic advances to help in prescribing.

  • The pipeline for new antibiotics continues to face barriers regarding production and development. No new classes of antibiotics have been discovered since the 1980s. Pew has stated that there are too few drugs in development to meet current and anticipated need.

  • This year's program offers a symposium on private-public partnerships to help jump-start development.

  • One of the most popular sessions returning this year is "Clinical Trials That Will Change Your Practice," Bhimraj said. This year, that session will be reserved for non-COVID infectious disease research. Presenters will summarize the findings of top work published in the past year.

Around-the-World COVID View

Again this year, global experts will present a round-the-clock session called "Chasing the Sun" the day before the main sessions. It will include updates on COVID throughout the world. Barney Graham, MD, PhD, deputy director of the National Institutes of Health's Vaccine Research Center, will kick off the program with an address on the future of vaccinology. This will be followed by updates on the state of the disease in Central and South America, Japan, Asia Pacific, India, and Africa.

Sandra Harwood

Sandra Harwood, IDWeek conference secretariat, who proposed the idea for the first Chasing the Sun session last year, told Medscape Medical News the updates will highlight particular COVID challenges experienced in various countries.

For example, leaders of India's session will address why a potentially fatal fungal disease struck many COVID-19 patients in that country. Japan's update will include how Olympic organizers planned for and dealt with the virus's threat in Tokyo.

Harwood said that all the COVID sessions in Chasing the Sun and throughout the program will be free to clinicians inside and outside the conference, thanks to a grant from the CDC.

An address by CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, on September 30 will wrap up Chasing the Sun and launch the main IDWeek Program.

Infectious Disease Week (IDWeek) 2021 Annual Meeting.

Marcia Frellick is a freelance journalist based in Chicago. She has previously written for the Chicago Tribune and Nurse.com and was an editor at the Chicago Sun-Times, the Cincinnati Enquirer, and the St. Cloud (Minnesota) Times. Follow her on Twitter at @mfrellick.

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