Understanding infectious diseases is a critical concern in today’s world. Thanks to globalization a person can traverse the globe in a day – but a virus can travel just as quickly. A virus that is not known or understood could spread like wildfire and cause the entire world to effectively shut down in a matter of months (i.e., COVID-19).
In this article, we will review some of the important milestones in the study of infectious diseases and vaccines.
The first pandemic in history is the Plague of Athens. The cause is unknown, but it struck around 430 BCE and killed roughly 100,000 people. The second pandemic of note is in 541. It is called the Plague of Justinian and was caused by a bacteria called Yersinia pestis – better known as the Plague or Black Death. It came back in the 1340s and killed around 50 million people.
Middle Ages and Beyond
Over the next few centuries, various pandemics emerged, including tuberculosis, smallpox, and yellow fever. Between these and other diseases of the time, the average life expectancy was around 30 in the year 1800.
The Birth of Modern Medicine
In 2019, the average global life expectancy was 73 years. That increase is attributed to two factors – overcoming famine and plague. Let’s look at some of the key events that led to the latter.
- 1831 – Pasteur Observes Rabies
- 1849 – Snow Publishes Early Findings on Cholera
- 1854 – Pacini Links Bacterium to Cholera
- 1881 – Pneumococcal Bacterium Discovered
- 1882 – Koch Isolates and Cultures Tuberculosis Bacilli
- 1884 – Success with Rabies Vaccine
- 1885 – Ferrán’s Cholera Vaccine
- 1886 – Pasteur Presents Rabies Results
- 1896 – Basis for Typhoid Vaccination Established
- 1899 – Typhoid Vaccines Used in British Military
- 1906 – Whopping Cough Bacteria Isolated
- 1911 – Pneumococcal whole-cell Vaccine Tested
- 1914 – Typhoid Vaccination Becomes Common
- 1918 – Spanish Flu Outbreak
- 1933 – Influenza Virus Isolated
- 1939 – Whooping Cough Vaccine Shown Effective
- 1945 – Influenza Vaccine Approved
- 1953 – Chickenpox Virus Isolated
- 1960 – Rubella Virus Isolated
- 1961 – Start of Seventh Cholera Pandemic
- 1969 – First Rubella Vaccine Licensed
- 1981 – HIV/AIDS First Appears
- 2002 – SARS Outbreak
- 2006 – HPV Vaccine Licensed in US
- 2009 – Swine Flu Outbreak
- 2014 – West Africa Ebola Pandemic
- 2015 – Zika Outbreak
- 2017 – Yemeni Cholera Epidemic
- 2019 – COVID-19 Pandemic Begins
- 2020 – COVID-19 vaccine approved
Infectious Disease Research Going Forward
As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves with vaccinations and variants, the world is watching, but there are other infectious diseases that are still around and still infecting. The medicine around vaccines and infectious disease therapeutics, as well as the research methods in play, will continue to adapt and improve. Pharm-Olam is proud to have contributed to this therapeutic area. Our team has supported over 50% of all NCE antibiotics approved by the FDA since 2013 and continues to support several infectious disease studies currently in progress, including Operation Warp Speed.