New Infectious Diseases

KRT Wire writes that infectious diseases like SARS may be hear to stay.

The nation’s top scientists say that environmental, economic, social and scientific changes have helped to trigger an unprecedented explosion of more than 35 new infectious diseases that have burst upon the world in the past 30 years. The U.S. death rate from infectious disease, which dropped in the first part of the 20th century and then stabilized, is now double what it was in 1980.

The Institute of Medicine convened a panel of top U.S. researchers. They attributed the surge in new diseases to 13 specific changes in the world and the way we live.

Those 13 factors are microbial adaptation and change; human susceptibility to infection; climate and weather; changing ecosystems; human demographics and behavior; economic development and land use; international travel and commerce; technology and industry; breakdown of public health measures; poverty and social inequality; war and famine; lack of political will; and bioterrorism.

“It’s a confluence of many factors,” said Dr. Fred Sparling, a medical and microbiology professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a co-author of the IOM report. “We have more people in mega-cities, which increases the risk for dissemination, more people moving into habitat that is used by animals as vectors for (disease) transmission, more international travel and commerce, which disseminates (germs) once they have arisen. And more poverty and social inequalities, which clearly add to it.”

Small Worlds theory applied to diseases can make for tough challenges ahead for the world’s health systems.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.