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Microorganisms strike back–infectious diseases during the last 50 years.


In the first half of the 20th century, improved living conditions, preventive measures, vaccines and antibiotics led to a marked reduction in morbidity and mortality from infectious diseases. It was predicted that the conquest of all infectious diseases was imminent. However, 50 years later, in 1999, they were still the major cause of
disease worldwide, and caused nearly one third of all deaths (a total of 55.9 million). The eradication of smallpox in the 1970s and the approaching eradication of poliomyelitis represent major achievements. The prevalence of measles, pertussis and tetanus neonatorum is also markedly reduced, but still 1.5 million children in developing countries die each year because of lack of vaccines. Malaria and tuberculosis are re-emerging. Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS are the diseases with known aetiology that cause most deaths, altogether 5 million each year. Respiratory and gastrointestinal infections cause 6.5 million deaths annually. Infections in the immunocompromised host have become a "trade mark" of today’s advanced medicine. Almost every year, new diseases related to new micro-organisms are described; over the last 30 years, approximately 40 new diseases/micro-organisms have been diagnosed. Among the best known are HIV/AIDS, peptic ulcer caused by Helicobacter pylori, Legionnaires’
disease, borreliosis (
Lyme disease), hepatitis C, gastroenteritis caused by rotavirus, and Ebola haemorrhagic fever. Antimicrobial resistance development of micro-organisms has become one of the major health problems worldwide; a number of preventive measures are being introduced.

Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen. 2001 Dec 10;121(30):3538-43. English Abstract; Historical Article [1]