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Infectious Diseases 2021

The need for medical expertise to tackle infectious diseases

Image provided by ESCMID

Emmanuelle Cambau, MD, PhD

Professional Affairs Officer, ESCMID (European Society, Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases)

Many infections, such as tuberculosis, have cases and deaths in the millions, but they are neglected as the world is suffering from COVID-19.

COVID-19 has caused about two million deaths; tuberculosis (TB) causes numbers like this annually. Although TB has a “World Day” on 24th March, was characterised as a global WHO emergency and received a specific UN recommendation, most governments, organisations, diagnostic and pharmaceutical companies do not pay much attention to this infection. This is contrary to what has been observed for SARS-CoV-2 this year. 

Medical expertise needed for all infections

A first inventory concerning country capacities for microbiological diagnosis, patient management and disease control shows that many of them were surprised and unarmed when COVID-19 appeared. This slow start has been previously observed when the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) was discovered, was repeated with the hepatitis C viral infection, and now with the SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Medical specialties to resolve issue of infection

Clinical Microbiology (CM) and Infectious Diseases (ID)medical specialties exist in many countries with university diplomas, specific training curriculum and professional expertise.

In Europe, these specialties are represented as sections of the European Union of Medical Specialists (UEMS) and roughly 9,000 individuals are also members of ESCMID. CM and ID act in synergy to answer adequately to all needs in patient management and detection of infectious agents for better diagnostics and prevention. They also have competencies in infection control (IC) management and antimicrobial stewardship (AMS). These specialities need to be better supported, increased in size and established across all countries.

Infected patients must be identified and treated in order to protect the population.

Expertise to control present and future pandemics

Having CM and ID specialists in each country (hospitals and organisations) would help in all problems caused by transmitted infections; from rare diseases such as Ebola, where highly specialised expertise is required, to pandemics where transmission must be stopped, infected patients must be identified and treated in order to protect the population. Since these medical specialties are one expertise for all infections, it should be a priority to promote them globally to deal with new crises such as COVID-19 and older ones such as TB.

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