NIH scientists reflect on gains in emerging infectious disease awareness, research and response

In a new essay, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., and David Morens, M.D., reflect on what has been learned about emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) in the two decades since a major report from the U.S. Institute of Medicine rekindled interest in this important topic.

Heightened awareness of EIDs is itself a countermeasure against disease, note the authors. The emergence of new diseases can now be monitored in real time online through Internet resources such as ProMED. In 2012 alone, such resources kept the scientific community and the public informed about the emergence in the Middle East of a novel disease-causing coronavirus; occurrences of illness at caused by a hantavirus; and the emergence in U.S. farm communities of a variant (H3N2v) that spread from swine to people. The authors point to advances that have improved the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of EIDs. Rapid sequencing of whole genomes, for example, allows for swift identification of new disease agents. The complex interactions between disease-causing microbes and human hosts are being revealed through approaches that describe entire biological systems holistically (). The data from such studies can be used to inform the development of drugs or vaccines. Recent appreciation of the sometimes beneficial role of communities of microorganisms dwelling in the gut, mouth, skin and other niches has reshaped the standard notion of infectious diseases as a simple contest between virulent invading pathogens and the .

The scientists emphasize the need for sustained commitment to developing countermeasures for specific diseases and to basic research that will lead to a greater understanding of infectious diseases and human susceptibility.

More information: DM Morens and AS Fauci. Emerging infectious diseases in 2012: 20 years after the Institute of Medicine report. mBio DOI: 10.1128/mBio.00494-12 (2012) (http://mbio.asm.org/content/3/6/e00494-12).

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NIAID scientists consider 200 years of infectious diseases

Feb 02, 2012

Unpredictable, ever-changing and with potentially far-reaching effects on the fates of nations, infectious diseases are compelling actors in the drama of human history, note scientists from the National Institute of Allergy ...

Recommended for you

Aid group: No need to isolate staff treating Ebola

11 minutes ago

Doctors Without Borders insisted Friday, after one of its doctors who worked in Guinea came down with Ebola in New York, that quarantines of health workers returning from the hot zone are not necessary when ...

New York on alert over first Ebola case

20 minutes ago

New York went on alert Friday as authorities sought to calm fears among the city's 8.4 million residents after a doctor tested positive for Ebola.

Volunteer guidelines for clinicians in the Ebola epidemic

1 hour ago

Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness Journal has released a novel, informative article that speaks to volunteers within the Ebola epidemic. The article, contributed by a consortium of Boston-based hospitals, is ent ...

US lawmaker: New case raises questions on Ebola

2 hours ago

The new case of Ebola diagnosed in New York City has raised "even more questions about procedures in treating patients and risks to Americans," a Republican committee chairman said Friday.

User comments