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Peter Roth

Head of Publishing, MDPI

Combating infectious diseases calls for great scientific minds – and great scientific collaboration. Learn about the milestones in disease elimination and the global solidarity shaping our response.

The history of humankind is the history of infectious disease. From the plagues of the Old Testament through the Plague of Justinian, the Black Death, the Spanish Flu and recent Covid-19 pandemic, society has been repeatedly redefined by its response to pathogens. Looking to the future, our continuing success as a species will depend critically on how we manage infectious diseases — both those we know and those yet to develop.

Milestone in disease elimination

Celebrating its 75th anniversary last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) noted that 2023 was a record year for disease elimination. Azerbaijan, Tajikistan and Belize all eliminated malaria while Benin, Mali and Iraq eliminated trachoma, and Bangladesh and Lao People’s Democratic Republic eliminated lymphatic filariasis.1

Simultaneously, however, Johns Hopkins University lists the following as emerging diseases: HIV infections, SARS, Lyme disease, Escherichia coli O157:H7 (E. coli), hantavirus, dengue fever, West Nile virus and the Zika virus.

Arguably, even more concerning is the occurrence of re-emerging diseases including malaria, tuberculosis, cholera, pertussis, influenza, pneumococcal disease and gonorrhoea.2

If you want to solve a societal problem,
it does not matter which discipline
contributes the most — the solution
is always transdisciplinary.

Global solidarity and rising to challenges

In its 2023 reflections, WHO emphasised how ‘working together in global solidarity has enabled us to rise to complex challenges in the past and will continue to do so in future.’3

An outstanding figure in the worldwide battle against infectious diseases in our age is Professor Marcel Tanner, Director of the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, Basel, from 1997 to 2015. Famed for his motto, “You can never know everything, but you always know enough to do something4,” Tanner has received global recognition for his expertise in the field of infectious disease research and control.

Imagination, dedication and collaboration

In 2022, MDPI had the privilege of publishing a special issue of its journal, entitled Diseases, celebrating Tanner’s 70th birthday. The many heartfelt tributes in this special issue highlight what an extraordinary mind can achieve during a lifetime of scientific imagination, dedication and collaboration.

Tanner himself has said: “If you want to solve a societal problem, it does not matter which discipline contributes the most — the solution is always transdisciplinary5.” Governments, NGOs, public-private partnerships and academic institutions all have an essential role to play here — so does scientific publishing.

I have spent my life in this field — and am just as excited as ever at the prospect of publishing more transformative research from world-renowned experts in the service of the global scientific community.

[1] (accessed 13.03.24).
[2] (accessed 13.03.24).
[3] (accessed 13.03.24).
[4] (accessed 13.03.24).
[5] (accessed 13.03.24).

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