Infectious Diseases

Infectious diseases account for about 1 in 4 deaths worldwide, including approximately two-thirds of all deaths among children younger than age 5. For more than 60 years, NIH has worked to combat infectious diseases by helping to develop new therapies, vaccines, diagnostic tests, and other technologies.

Vaccines can now protect children against once-common infections, including chicken pox, measles, mumps and pneumococcal pneumonia. In 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first vaccine against a cancer-causing virus. Developed after nearly 2 decades of NIH-funded research, the vaccine helps to prevent cervical cancer, which today claims the lives of nearly 4,000 women each year in the United States.

Beyond vaccines, basic research has led to a deeper understanding of how infectious diseases pass from one person to another, how to prevent this transmission, and how to better treat or cure these diseases. Below are just a few areas where NIH-funded investigations are having a significant impact.

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An infection-fighting antibody (green) latches onto an HIV surface protein (red).


The discovery and development of new drugs have turned HIV infection from a death sentence into a chronic disease for those who have access to, and can tolerate, these powerful medicines.

Man receiving an intramuscular immunization in his left shoulder.


By studying the basic biology of flu, NIH-funded researchers recently discovered a type of antibody that neutralizes and protects against several viral subtypes.

An American health worker preparing to give a African boy an injection.

Global Health

Science and disease have no borders, and thanks to NIH-funded research by U.S. and international teams, scientists have made important progress in both infectious and chronic, non-communicable diseases that affect people across the globe.

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This page last reviewed on September 14, 2015