Landmark Developments in Infectious Diseases

A 20-Year Look-Back: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Ingrid G. Hein


October 20, 2015

In This Article


What has the past 20 years shown us about infectious disease, asks John Bartlett?

With 40 years in the field, including 26 years as the chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at John Hopkins, Bartlett continues to be fascinated by infectious diseases. "The kinetics of the field are extraordinary and full of surprises. It's just filled with excitement. Nobody saw Ebola coming, and bioterrorism; that was a complete mystery."

He sees the past 20 years in infectious disease as characterized by three main themes:

  • Constant and usually unpredictable surprises—West Nile virus, H1N1, SARS, MERS, and Ebola;

  • Unprecedented ability to respond to infectious disease—antibiotics, vaccines, and public health; and

  • A bright future for high-impact development—antibiotic resistance, molecular diagnostics, global health cooperation (such as PEPFAR), new antibiotic development, and the microbiome.

"It would be difficult to find another field of medicine with so much achievement, so many new challenges, and so many surprises," Bartlett says. "That's the excitement of infectious diseases."


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