The "Control of Infectious Diseases" has challenged humankind through out the ages. A 2,000 year historical review would highlight outbreaks of leprosy, the plague ("the black death") of the middle ages, influenza pandemics of 1918, the fight against HIV and most recently the fear that SARS instilled on a modern high tech world. There would of course be some triumphant moments too, the miracle of antibiotics in the 1940s and the impact of vaccination on diseases, such as polio and diphtheria are truly significant.
The European Commission through its Fifth Framework Research Programme recognised the importance of supporting research to underpin and contribute to the "Control of Infectious Diseases" - the title given to Key Action 2 of the Quality of Life Programme.
In this catalogue are the fruits of these efforts - the scope of the research work undertaken is vast, ranging from vaccine development, enhanced epidemiological and surveillance activities and improved diagnostics. The range of agents and diseases under study is equally impressive, covering over 50% of the list to be progressively covered by the Network for the Epidemiological Surveillance and Control of Communicable Diseases in the Community. It provides an outline of over 170 scientific funded projects and aims to give scientist and policy makers an overview of the topics, range of organisations and countries that have been supported as well as the associated budgets that have been provided.
At this point projects that were funded at the beginning of the 5FWP are nearing completion, others are in their first year of activity, consequently it is impossible to illustrate the full significance of the Key Action. However, initial results emerging from an independent Impact Assessment indicate that over 600 scientific articles have been published in peer review journals, numerous abstracts displayed at scientific conferences and almost 600 research organisations work in pan European consortia.
In addition the Key Action has enabled scientists to attend appropriate scientific conferences contributing to the first hand dissemination of research results. And with two more years of determined effort to go, one can anticipate that the final outcome will be impressive.
Let us not underestimate the scale of the task in hand, recent WHO estimates suggest that 14.7 million deaths a year are due to infectious diseases. This Community contribution does not aim to solve the whole problem, but it is with the utmost confidence that it can be claimed that the Key Action "Control of Infectious Diseases" has triggered a cascade effect, generating advances in our scientific knowledge by funding scientific consortia to work in synergy.
The preparation of this catalogue would not have been possible without the contribution of all project coordinators responsible for the projects presented. Considerable support in compiling the material has been provided by the members of the team of the Key Action 2 “infectious diseases”, namely Bray Jeremy, Mary Fitzgerald, Arnd Hoeveler, Andreas Holtel, Tuija Jansson, Anna Lönnroth, Donata Medaglini, Isabel Minguez Tudela, Renate Riede, Manuel Romaris, Ludovica Serafini and in particular Josefina Enfedaque, Thomas Jussen and Maria Santolin.
Dr. Alain Vanvossel, head of unit for Major Diseases of DG RTD/F-2 at the European Commission provided supervision and guidance.
The assistance of Ms. Christine Dell’Osso was appreciated for the cover layout.