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IN RECENT lectures on current health threats posed by a broad array of microbes, several infectious disease experts seemed to take a perverse pleasure in exhuming a 1969 quote, in which the surgeon general at that time confidently asserted that the war against infectious diseases had been won—not only in the United States, but elsewhere in the world.
That assertion, in light of a quarter-century marked by the emergence of such new diseases as AIDS, Ebola hemorrhagic fever, Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, and Lyme disease, and the reemergence of such old foes as tuberculosis, rabies, and diarrheal disease caused by the parasite Cryptosporidium parvum, seems increasingly ingenuous to the medical community today.
"The war has been won—by the other side," joked one scientist, whose own work focuses on ferreting out new infectious agents with the help of molecular techniques the overly optimistic surgeon general could not have imagined.
Few physicians, researchers,
Stephenson J. Fighting Infectious Disease Threats via Research: A Talk With Anthony S. Fauci. JAMA. 1996;275(3):173-174. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03530270013005