Last week, NPR highlighted The Journal of the American Medical Association’s (JAMA) latest research letter titled, “Infectious Disease Mortality Trends in the United States, 1980-2014.”
This research letter describes a steady decline of mortality from infectious diseases in the U.S. As NPR reports, the research states that only 5.4 percent of deaths from 1980 to 2014 were due to infectious disease. It’s clear we’ve come a long way compared to 1900 when that number was closer to 50 percent. NPR asked one of the authors about this trend and she said:
The historical decline represents great progress in sanitation, antibiotic discovery and vaccination programs, says Heidi Brown, an assistant professor of public health at the University of Arizona and an author of the research letter. ‘We’ve done phenomenal and amazing things with respect to infectious diseases.’
While once life-threatening infectious diseases like pneumonia and tuberculous may no longer be leading killers, new diseases are constantly making their debut. Since the 80s, HIV/AIDS, West Nile, and hepatitis B surfaced as new threats. In a rather short period of time, scientists went from not understanding these diseases to developing new drugs, saving lives, and bringing the death toll down.
The statistics prove that advances have been made, but the emergence of new diseases can threaten our public health at any time. To ensure that the trend remains positive and emerging infectious diseases are met with tough medical intervention, biotech innovation must be continuous and vigilant. As Brown says:
Infectious diseases [are] still not conquered. There’s still that vulnerability.