The depredations of the global HIV pandemic have been a humbling experience for the scientific infectious disease community and the public health authorities. This can hardly be compared with the human suffering induced by this alien surprise, and what may still lie ahead. However, it may yet have some salutary effect if it alerts us to still further hazards that we face as a species in our competition with microbial competitors, who crowd us at the summit of the terrestrial food chain.
This month, JAMA and 35 other journals worldwide will document the occurrence, causes, and consequences of emerging and reemerging infections. This resurgence of scientific interest has been matched in popular media, in the pages of newsmagazines, newspaper headlines, best-selling books, TV shows, and movies like Outbreak. Tangible responses by governments in the form of budgetary or staffing commitments remain negligible, and political debates about health have focused on