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Ending the War Metaphor

The Changing Agenda for Unraveling the Host-Microbe Relationship

Workshop Summary


Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); .
ISBN-10: 0-309-09601-4


The challenges of resistance are compounded by growing concerns about the possible use of biological weapons leading to large-scale disease outbreak or exposure. The ability to respond effectively to such exposures could be significantly compromised by the introduction of drug-resistant pathogens. The use of prophylactic drugs or therapies on large populations may also contribute to the development of drug resistance and thus increase both the immediate and longer-term challenges of treating infectious diseases.

With such evidence of a dwindling armamentarium to wage our wars against infectious diseases, it has been suggested that a paradigm shift is warranted in how we address the threats posed by pathogens. In an attempt for the Forum to understand how such a new lens might be devised through which the challenges of disease should be viewed, the presentations and discussions of the workshop were structured to explore the existing knowledge and unanswered questions indicated by (but not limited to) the following topics:

  • host-pathogen interactions: defining the concepts of pathogenicity, virulence, colonization, commensalism, and symbiosis;
  • the ecology of host-microbe interactions;
  • understanding the dynamic relationships of host-microbe interactions;
  • novel approaches for mitigating or minimizing the development of antimicrobial resistance; and
  • challenges and opportunities for developing a new paradigm to replace the “war metaphor” of the host-microbial relationship.


This project was supported by the American Society for Microbiology; Burroughs Wellcome Fund; Defense Threat Reduction Agency; GlaxoSmithKline; Infectious Disease Society of America; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; Merck; Pfizer; Sanofi Pasteur; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Institutes of Health/National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Disease and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; U.S. Department of Defense/Global Emerging Infections Surveillance/Walter Reed Army Institute of Research; U.S. Department of Homeland Security; U.S. Department of State; and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The views presented in this report are those of the editors and attributed authors and are not necessarily those of the funding agencies.

NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine.

Copyright © 2006, National Academy of Sciences.
Bookshelf ID: NBK57071PMID: 21850787DOI: 10.17226/11669


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