infectious disease

For the vast majority of people who live in the developed world, infectious disease is an afterthought.

Sure, we still catch colds and (if we're old or immunocompromised) can die of influenza, pneumonia, or food poisoning. Antibiotic resistance is scary -- and directly responsible for about 23,000 deaths in the U.S. each year -- but it hasn't quite become the apocalypse we all feared. In general, the microbial world is just not something the average person has to think about very much.

That luxury of modern life is due to the strong defense provided by the "pillars" of our public health system. According to Dr. Michael Osterholm, these...

It's hard to admit that mom's nagging was correct more often than not. When she warned us that going outside in the cold would make us sick, she wasn't just being an overprotective helicopter parent. She was actually right.

Two years ago, a study in PNAS showed that rhinoviruses* -- a very common cause of the common cold -- likes to grow in nasal passages. The reason is that, being exposed to the environment, the nose is colder than other parts of the body. Lower temperatures are beneficial to infectious microbes because our immune system does not perform well. For instance, when cold, our innate immune system produces less interferon...

Let’s wax nostalgic. Do you recall the Ebola outbreak a few years ago that brought fear into many American’s lives and ravaged our television screens? Those spacesuit-like outfits medical personnel wore to prevent acquiring the infection were demonstrated by anchors and blasted out via all media forms. The challenge of taking the gear on and off without compromising one’s safety was replayed nearly on a loop.

The messages transmitted then still ring true now regarding the importance of health care worker biohazard protection—not only for themselves, but also the communities they inhabit. In a recent statement put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the governing agency revealed...

"Every night on the television news now is like a nature hike through the Book of Revelation," lamented Al Gore in his opening remarks for the Climate & Health Meeting. After all these years, he still has a demented penchant for apocalyptic exaggeration. Though it can occasionally rain frogs and fish (and even golf balls), the oceans have not yet turned to blood and and no one needs to remove any wax seals from that scroll just yet.

Studies have shown that temperatures have increased...

The Washington Post has reported that, without explanation, the CDC abruptly canceled a conference on how climate change will impact human health. Good.

There's little doubt why the CDC canceled it. The Trump Administration is skeptical of anthropogenic climate change, so somebody -- perhaps President Trump himself -- likely made a single phone call and that was that. Journalists and the Twitterverse will surely go berserk, but they should not. Climate change falls well outside the CDC's area of expertise.

Founded in 1946, the CDC's...

Malaria is a notoriously tricky infectious disease. Because of a unique genetic flexibility, it is able to change surface proteins, avoiding the immune response and greatly complicating vaccine development. Furthermore, the parasite is transmitted by mosquitoes, which are difficult to control. Insecticides work, but mosquitoes can develop resistance to them.

One method widely used to control malaria is for governments or charities to provide families with insecticide-treated bed nets. Overall, this strategy is very successful, and it has been credited with preventing some 451 million cases of malaria in the past 15 years. But bed nets are not successful everywhere. In some parts of the world, mosquitoes develop "behavioral resistance"; i.e., they learn to avoid bed nets by ...

Necrotizing fasciitis, which literally translated means "inflammation of the fascia (connective tissue) causing cell death," is the proper medical term for what is colloquially known as "flesh-eating" disease. The most recent case that made national headlines involved a man who died four days after becoming infected with the ocean-dwelling microbe Vibrio vulnificus

Naturally, public health officials, microbiologists, and journalists tend to focus on how a bacterium can become so deadly. Indeed, as bacteria evolve, they can acquire various weapons (e.g.,...

When some of the public hears about vaccines today, they may think of Andrew Wakefield's fraudulent links to autism or Jenny McCarthy’s use of her Hollywood megaphone to polarize the issue as well as encourage the spread of an anti-vaccine movement.  

Truth be told, for a time public opinion did shift and philosophical exemptions boomed, primarily in states like California, Washington, and Oregon. Preventable diseases blossomed. 

As science stood largely silent, Dr. Paul Offit - Chief of Infectious Diseases and the Director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and long-time trustee and supporter of the American Council on Science and Health - took to the helm to fight the noble battle on behalf of children’s health and safety.  He...

The American Academy of Pediatrics convened a committee to guide clinicians on “Countering Vaccine Hesitancy” among parents. This policy statement, published in the journal Pediatrics, rightly champions vaccination as "one of the greatest public health achievements of the last century."  In a calculated effort not to reduce the conversation to a pro- versus anti-vaccine one, the leading pediatric advocacy body correctly opted to emphasize “vaccine hesitant” as a more precise reflection of the spectrum of parental views toward immunization.  According to a survey they conducted, 75% of pediatricians reported encountering parents who refused vaccines in 2006 compared to 87...