Infection" is usually associated with an oozing sore, a bout with the flu, or an outbreak in some exotic place. But infectious organisms lie behind many chronic illnesses too, and an increasingly molecular approach to diagnosis is clarifying some of these relationships. An invited panel discussed "The Infectious Etiology of Chronic Diseases" at the second International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases, held in Atlanta July 16-19.

Chronic diseases take a huge toll. "In the [United States], 70 percent of all deaths are due to one or more chronic diseases, and more than 90 million people suffer daily," said session opening speaker Tom Quinn of the laboratory of immunoregulation at the National

Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Even diseases not typically associated with pathogens may have underlying infectious causes. "Of the eight million new cases of cancer in the world each year, a million are attributable to a known infectious...

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