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Infectious diseases - timeline

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1960: Methicillin developed

Methicillin was developed to treat infections caused by bacteria resistant to penicillin. MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is a term used to describe strains of the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus which are resistant to all penicillin-type antibiotics.

Chemical structure of methicillin

Courtesy CDC/Jean Roy

1979: Smallpox eradicated

The last case of smallpox occurred in Somalia in 1977 following a global eradication campaign. Smallpox used to kill up to 30% of those who caught it. Most of the remainder suffered complications such as blindness or pockmarks - pitted scars on their skin. No effective treatment for smallpox was ever discovered.

2000: Measles outbreak, United States

Measles is declared eliminated from the United States. Between 1999 and 2000, there had been zero cases of measles passed between individuals living in the United States. The only reported measles cases had been from people visiting, and these cases were controlled from spreading to others.

Image source Government of Prince Edward Island (license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Courtesy CDC/Judy Schmidt

2008: Cervical cancer vaccination programme introduced in UK

Infection with human papilloma virus (HPV) can cause cervical cancer or genital warts. A national programme to vaccinate girls aged 12-13 against HPV commenced in September 2008. A three year programme to vaccinate older girls started at the same time.

The vaccination involves three injections given over a six month period. It has been shown to protect against two types of HPV which together cause 70% of cases of cervical cancer. In the UK more than 1000 women a year die from cervical cancer despite cervical screening being offered to all women aged 25 to 65.

Other types of HPV cause skin warts and verrucas.

2018-2019: Measles outbreak, United States

New York State experienced an outbreak of over 200 confirmed measles cases, many attributed to communities with low vaccination rates in areas within Brooklyn and Rockland county. The Health Commissioner Howard Zucker stated that this was the worst outbreak of measles in recent history.

Courtesy CDC

Coronavirus Who

2019 - ongoing: COVID-19 world pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic, or coronavirus pandemic, is an ongoing pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The virus was first identified in Wuhan, China in December 2019. The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the outbreak a world pandemic in March 2020. After almost three years, the pandemic is not over yet and has caused more than 625 million cases and 6.5 million deaths, making it one of the deadliest in history.

To learn more about how the innovative pharmaceutical industry came together with the broader global health community to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, click here.