Infectious diseases are among the top five leading causes of death worldwide. What factors contribute to the spread of infectious disease? How do those factors contribute to patterns of disease emergence or re-emergence? Answers to these questions are critical for protecting human health.
Scientists have long known that the environment plays a defining role in the spread of infectious disease. For example, flooding could increase the populations of mosquitoes that carry malaria. But, could environmental stressors also play a role in human susceptibility to infection? Emerging findings suggest that environmental pollutants such as heavy metals, pesticides, and airborne particulate matter may weaken the immune system. Emerging evidence also suggests that exposure to some pollutants may reduce vaccine effectiveness. But, environmental health, the study of the effect of the environment on human health, is rarely combined with the study of infectious diseases. Research on the interplay between these fields could inform new health practices, public health research, and public health policy.
This workshop brought together infectious disease, global public health, toxicology, environmental epidemiology, and science policy experts to explore the growing body of research on the links between environmental stressors, infectious disease, and human health. The workshop featured presentations, panel discussions, and breakout sessions to engage scientists and decision makers in this important, cross-disciplinary issue.