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Specialty spotlight – infectious diseases

Dr Matthias Schmid, consultant physician and honorary clinical senior lecturer, and head of the department of infection and tropical medicine at Newcastle University, and Sara Boyd, ST4 academic clinical fellow in infectious diseases, and British Infection Association (BIA) microbiology trainee representative, discuss infectious diseases and what makes the specialty so interesting.

Introduction to infectious diseases

Infectious diseases is a fascinating and rapidly changing specialty which offers the opportunity to see a wide range of patients, combine laboratory and clinical skills, and spend time in research or working abroad in specialist centres. Particular challenges include the emergence of new diseases, and the increasing problems associated with antimicrobial resistance.

Infectious diseases encompasses the diagnosis and management of a wide variety of infections, only some of which are 'infectious' in the commonly understood sense of the word. Infectious diseases as a specialty is now fully integrated into the modern general, acute hospital and closely allied with acute medical specialties.

Physicians in the specialty help hospitals deal with problems associated with healthcare-associated infections. At the same time, the specialty is at the forefront of efforts to recognize and contain emerging infections like severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and avian influenza. The specialty is also involved in providing travel medicine advice for those visiting the tropics and for assessing those travellers returning to the UK with health problems. Most infectious diseases physicians are actively engaged in research and other academic activities.

Training and working in infectious diseases

Infectious diseases resources

RCP resources

Historical highlights from the library, archive and museum collection

The struggle to understand, prevent and cure infectious diseases has troubled physicians for centuries, at least since the ancient plague of Athens. Control of bubonic plague is the subject of many books in the RCP library, from the major European outbreaks of the 15th and 16th centuries to the outbreaks in Asia and Australia in the 19th century and beyond.

You can read more about the history of infectious diseases on the RCP library, archive and museum blog.