About Us

 

Infectious disease research, prevention, and patient care are well established traditions at the NYU School of Medicine and Bellevue Hospital, and we continue to build on those traditions. In the 19th century, Bellevue physicians established New York City's sanitary code, the first in the world, to reduce the burden of infection. Also in the 19th century, Bellevue was the site of the Carnegie Laboratory, the first laboratory for bacteriology in the United States, shortly after the first discovery of bacteria as agents of disease (anthrax and tuberculosis). In the latter part of the 19th century, Herman Biggs and William Park were pioneers in the production and therapeutic use of diphtheria antitoxin, one of the earliest examples of immunotherapy for the treatment of a disease. Dr. Biggs was also a pioneer in tuberculosis control; his efforts reduced the prevalence of tuberculosis, even before development of effective drug treatment.

In the early 20th century, William Tillett discovered a protein in the blood of patients with pneumococcal pneumonia that reacted with the "C-component" of the bacteria; we now know this as C-reactive protein. Tillett and his colleague L.R. Christensen also discovered streptokinase, the first fibrinolytic agent identified, and used it to accelerate resolution of pleural empyemas and for debridement of infected wounds. Their work was recognized by the Lasker Award in 1949, and by Dr. Tillett's election to the National Academy of Sciences. H. Sherwood Lawrence, the first director of the Division of Infectious Diseases and Immunology, was a pioneer in studies of cell mediated immunity, and was also elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

More recently, NYU faculty have made major contributions to the fight against global infectious diseases. Drs. Victor and Ruth Nussenzweig, prior to their move to NYU, developed an economical method that eradicated transfusion-associated Chagas disease in South America. At NYU, they performed the groundbreaking work that led to development of both of the effective human malaria vaccines, by showing that immunization with irradiated sporozoites provided protective immunity, and then by identifying the circumsporozoite protein as the immunogenic component. Richard Novick, a pioneer in the molecular biology and pathogenesis of Staphylococcus aureus infections, has made and continues to make numerous contributions to understanding how Staphylococci cause disease and regulate their virulence. Drs. Ruth Nussenzweig and Richard Novick were also recently elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest levels of recognition for scientific contributions in the United States.

Likewise, physicians in the NYU Division of Infectious Diseases and Immunology, Drs. Jeffrey Greene, Robert Holzman, Fred Valentine, and Michael Simberkoff were among the first to identify opportunistic infections that were the initial signs of the global AIDS epidemic. They were also early leaders in treatment of opportunistic infections, and in early trials of antiretroviral therapy.

The tradition of excellence continues in the Division, with current research concentrations on tuberculosis, Staphylococcus aureus, and HIV. Each of these involves close interactions and collaborations with colleagues in other programs and Departments at NYU, especially the Departments of Microbiology, Pathology, and Cell Biology, and the Program in Immunology and Inflammation.