Fauci Addresses Infectious Disease Research in 21st Century
"The discipline of infectious disease will assume added prominence in the 21st century in both developed and developing nations," National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease Director Dr. Anthony Fauci writes in the March 1 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases. Fauci's article, an abridged version of his Sept. 7, 2000, address at the 38th annual meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, noted that infectious diseases are the second leading cause of death and the leading cause of "disability-adjusted life years worldwide (one disability-adjusted life year is one lost year of healthy life)." The five leading infectious causes of death -- acute lower respiratory infections, HIV/AIDS, diarrheal diseases, tuberculosis and malaria -- claimed 11.5 million lives in 1999. Infectious disease has become an item on foreign policy agendas, as epidemics have shown a deleterious effect on economic development and political stability in some countries, Fauci writes. Moreover, Fauci notes that infectious diseases and the biological sciences in general will be "increasingly important to the development and execution of foreign policy in the 21st century."
Some of the "key scientific challenges" facing infectious disease researchers over the next century include the "threat of emerging and re-emerging diseases," such as HIV/AIDS, and increasing drug resistance in "all classes of microbial pathogens," Fauci writes. However, "[i]nterest in global health has led to increasing levels of financial support, which, combined with recent technological advances, provide extraordinary opportunities for infectious disease research in the 21st century," Fauci writes. In addition, he predicts that the "sequencing of human and microbial genomes and advances in functional genomics will underpin significant progress in many areas, including understanding human predisposition and susceptibility to disease, microbial pathogenesis, and the development of new diagnostics, vaccines and therapies" (NIH release, 2/26).