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Subspecialty Careers: Highlights about Careers in Internal Medicine: Infectious Disease


The Discipline

From the Latin word inficere, "to dye or stain" but also "to corrupt or spoil." The ancients conceived that disease could result from the entrance of invisible agents into the body, a sort of "tainting."

Infectious disease medicine requires an understanding of the microbiology, prevention, and management of disorders caused by viral, bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections. This understanding includes the appropriate use of antimicrobial agents, vaccines, and other immunobiological agents. Important content includes the environmental, occupational, and host factors that predispose to infection, as well as the basic principles of epidemiology and transmission of infection.


Important procedural skills include the proper collection of culture specimens, Gram and other staining techniques. The specialist in infectious disease is an expert in ordering and interpreting antibiotic sensitivity tests and serum levels, CD4 counts, ELISA, polymerase chain reaction, immunoblotting studies, and serology for infections.


Infectious disease fellowship training requires two years of accredited training beyond general internal medicine residency. During the two years, a minimum of 12 months must include clinical training in the diagnosis and management of a broad spectrum of medical diseases.


The American Board of Internal Medicine offers certification in infectious disease.

Training Positions

As of August 2005, there were 141 ACGME-accredited training programs in infectious disease with 679 active training positions. 41% percent of the trainees were female, and 48% were US medical graduates.


Approximately 40% of the graduates in the United States enter clinical practice in infectious disease, and 43% enter academic medicine.

Major Professional Societies

Infectious Diseases Society of America
66 Canal Center Plaza, Suite 600
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 299-0200

Major Publications

Clinical Infectious Diseases
Emerging Infectious Diseases
Journal of Infectious Diseases

Back to February 2007 Issue of IMpact

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