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Special Focus: Infectious Disease

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“The field could not be more exciting right now to those who are in it,” says infectious-disease specialist Stephen Baum. “But that’s the result of unfortunate developments—bioterrorism, sars, and new forms of influenza that could be extremely dangerous.”

Infectious diseases run the gamut from athlete’s foot to bubonic plague. sars gets the most media attention, but the field’s biggest concern is more mundane: antibiotic resistance. “We’re losing the war on microbes,” says specialist Martin J. Blaser. “What’s needed is a big push to curtail the use of antibiotics. Most sore throats and ear infections don’t need them. If someone has an infection and I prescribe an antibiotic, that prescription affects everyone in his family, his community, the world, living and to be born.” Other specialists agree that the threat is very real. “We’ve treated staph, the world’s No. 1 cause of infection, with penicillin for 50 years,” says James Rahal. “Now it’s resistant. We’ve moved on to vancomycin, usually administered only in the hospital, and now that too is showing signs of resistance.”

And what about SARS? “We’re still very much on the alert,” says Rahal. “If we don’t see anything develop this summer, we need to remain ready for next winter—it’s likely a seasonal virus.” And for the moment, there’s no vaccine on the horizon. “I’m sure there will be one,” says Baum, “but it will be at least a year, more likely two. It takes a year to produce and test a vaccine, even if you know how to do it.”

The top infectious-disease specialists in the New York area include:
Stephen Baum at Beth Israel Medical Center (212-420-4059);
Martin Blaser at NYU Medical Center (212-263-6394);
Barry Brause at New York-Presbyterian–New York Weill Cornell (212-570-6122);
Burke A. Cunha at Winthrop University Hospital (516-663-2507);
Glenda Garvey at NewYork-Presbyterian–Columbia Presbyterian (212-305-3272);
Jeffrey Gumprecht at Mount Sinai Medical Center (212-427-9550);
Bruce Polsky at St. Luke’s–Roosevelt Hospital Center (212-523-2525);
James Rahal at NY Hospital Queens (718-670-1525);
Kent Sepkowitz at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (212-639-2441);
Leon Smith at Saint Michael’s Medical Center (973-877-5481);
Peter Welch at Northern Westchester Hospital Center (914-666-1308).


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