The National Academies

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

What You Need To Know About Infectious Disease

Prevention & Treatment

Vaccines & Medicines

Medicines have existed in human society probably as long as sickness itself. However, with the advent of the modern pharmaceutical industry, biochemical approaches to preventing and treating disease have acquired a new level of prominence in the evolving relationship between microbes and their human hosts.

Vaccines

Vaccines

Many diseases that were once common—such as polio, measles, mumps, and tetanus—are now rare or well controlled because of vaccines.

We may not like getting vaccinated, but it has contributed greatly to our protection from harmful, if not deadly, diseases. Learn what vaccines are and how they work.

More about vaccines

Antibiotics & Antivirals

Antibiotics & Antivirals

As bacteria and viruses mutate (or change), antibiotics and antivirals can lose their effectiveness against them.

When you become ill with a bacterial or viral infection, your doctor commonly prescribes an antibiotic or antiviral medication. Find out more about the use of these medicines and what is challenging their effectiveness.

More about antibiotics & antivirals

Explore Other Topics

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

Autoimmune Disease

An umbrella term for a range of conditions in which the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue in the body.

View our full glossary

National Academies

Search the National Academies Press website by selecting one of these related terms.