Infectious Diseases

Infectious diseases have a wide variety of causes, and NIAID supports research to control and prevent diseases caused by virtually all human infectious agents. NIAID provides funding opportunities and a comprehensive set of resources for researchers that support basic research, pre-clinical development, and clinical evaluation.

Why Is the Study of Infectious Diseases a Priority for NIAID?

Infectious diseases continue to pose a significant threat to human health, with many types of infections having far-reaching, global consequences. NIAID recognizes the need to transform the way we prevent, control, and treat infectious diseases with the intent of reducing negative global impact.

How Is NIAID Addressing This Critical Topic?

NIAID conducts and supports research on infectious diseases, both through external collaboration with outside researchers, and at its own specialized research laboratories.

The Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases supports research and provides resources for all stages of research and product development, partnering with public and private institutions to make advances in the efforts to control infectious agents.

The NIAID Division of Intramural Research conducts basic and clinical research through multiple labs in a wide range of disciplines related to infectious diseases, while the Vaccine Research Center conducts research that facilitates the development of new vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics to address these diseases.

The results are research discoveries that are transforming the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of infectious disease.

Types of Infectious Diseases

Viral Diseases 

NIAID is conducting and supporting research to find new and improved ways to diagnose, treat, and prevent viral infections like influenza. Biomedical research supported by NIAID provides the tools necessary to develop diagnostic tests, new and improved treatments, vaccines, and other means to combat these threats. This includes working toward a universal flu vaccine that could provide long-lasting protection against multiple strains of influenza, including those that cause seasonal flu as well as emerging forms capable of causing a global pandemic.

Bacterial Diseases

Bacterial diseases continue to present a major threat to human health. Tuberculosis, for instance, still ranks among the world's leading causes of death. Streptococcus (Group B Streptococcus), another bacterium, continues to be a frequent cause of life-threatening infection during the first two months of life.

Research in basic bacteriology includes investigating molecular structure and function, genomics, biochemical composition, and physiologic and biochemical processes. Studies on these bacterial pathogens extend basic insights to identify vaccine candidate antigens and drug targets and to examine mechanisms of infection, pathogenicity, and virulence.

Areas of particular interest include streptococci, pneumonia, nosocomial (hospital-associated) infections, antibiotic resistance, bacterial sexually transmitted diseases, and bacterial diarrhea.

Fungal Diseases

Fungal diseases can be caused by a wide variety of microscopic fungi that are commonly found in the environment. While invasive fungal infections are rare in healthy people, they can still be deadly in isolated cases.

In addition, some fungal pathogens (such as Candida auris) are evolving resistance to standard antifungal treatments. This drug resistance poses a significant challenge to healthcare providers and researchers around the world.

NIAID is conducting and supporting basic research to understand how fungal pathogens cause disease and how the immune system responds to infection. NIAID is also supporting the development of new diagnostic tests, drugs, and preventative measures which could stop fungal infections.

Parasitic Diseases 

Diseases caused by protozoan (type of microbe) and helminth (type of worm) parasites are among the leading causes of death and disease in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Efforts to control the vector (carrier) of these diseases are often difficult due to pesticide resistance, concerns regarding damage to the environment, and lack of adequate support to apply existing vector control methods.

NIAID research on parasitic infections is targeted at developing a better understanding of the pathogenesis of infections and developing more effective prevention approaches, diagnostics, and treatments for them.

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