The National Academies

The National Academies: What You Need To Know About Infectious Disease

What You Need To Know About Infectious Disease

New infectious diseases are emerging and old ones are appearing in new places around the globe. What’s behind this trend? And to what extent has human behavior amplified the problem? The National Academies, advisers to the nation in science, engineering, and medicine, provide the information you need to understand this complex topic.

Infection

Microbes are all around us. Most don’t do any harm, and many are beneficial, but what about the few that cause infection? Learn the basics.

Threats

Certain aspects of disease are a particular threat to us today. What are some of the things we're most concerned about in the United States?

Challenges

National borders do little to block the path of infectious disease. Learn how our modern way of life contributes to the emergence and spread of diseases.

Prevention

What do we need to do—as individuals and as a society—to stave off the threat of emerging infectious disease?

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What do you know about infectious disease?

True or False: Not all microbes are harmful to humans.

  • Correct!

    Not all microbes are harmful to humans. In fact, many of them protect us, helping our bodies function properly and competing with harmful organisms in an eternal contest for habitable space in or on our bodies. Although the microorganisms that cause disease often receive more attention, most microorganisms do not cause illness.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    Not all microbes are harmful to humans. In fact, many of them protect us, helping our bodies function properly and competing with harmful organisms in an eternal contest for habitable space in or on our bodies. Although the microorganisms that cause disease often receive more attention, most microorganisms do not cause illness.

Infectious Disease Defined

RNA

Short for ribonucleic acid, RNA is a molecule with long strands of nucleic acids containing a nitrogenous base, a ribose sugar, and a phosphate. RNA is responsible for controlling a number of chemical activities, including protein synthesis, within cells.

View our full glossary

Disease Watchlist

Toxoplasmosis

Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. Eating undercooked, contaminated meat; drinking water that contains the parasite; and contact with cat feces—by cleaning a litter box, for example—are the most common ways to become infected with the parasite. 

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