Infectious diseases present a very real and significant challenge to the health of millions of people around the world. Bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi all cause illnesses in people, with more than 17 million dying every year. In an interconnected world, infectious diseases can spread further and faster.
The emergence of new infectious diseases is of concern. Real-life experience has shown us how viral infections such as COVID-19 can quickly spread and cause destruction on a global scale, impacting communities and straining healthcare systems.
Eradicating disease with innovation
Some bacteria are beneficial to our health (e.g. those living in our gut), but others may cause severe illness and require treatment with antibiotics. Overuse of antibiotics has led to bacteria becoming resistant to these drugs, so researchers are developing new treatments and vaccines to tackle this problem. Harnessing the body’s own immune system to boost the clearance of infections is another approach that may help to overcome multi-drug resistant bacteria.
Although treatments are available for viral infectious diseases such as influenza, HIV, herpes, hepatitis B and C, more work needs to be done to develop new diagnostic tests, therapeutics and vaccines for potentially new and re-emerging disease.
Image caption: Humanity’s deadliest foe.
This image shows the mosquito that transmits malaria. The WEHI Institute has a dedicated insectary where they breed mosquitoes that are then infected with human malaria parasite to help develop tools to stop this disease. Although malaria is no longer prevalent in Australia, it still kills over half a million people, in some of the poorest areas of the world. It is preventable and we are designing new drugs and vaccines to eradicate it.
This image was produced in a collaborative effort between insect lovers in Molecular Medicine, the Imaging Facility and Infection & Immunity Divisions.
2018 Art of Science finalist – Humanity’s deadliest foe
Qike Wang, Molecular Medicine division and Julie Healer, Infection & Immunity division
Image credit: WEHI