Medicine:Infectious disease (medical specialty)

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Short description: Medical specialty dealing with the diagnosis, control and treatment of infections
Infectious disease
Gram stain 01.jpg
Gram stain of bacteria: a test frequently performed in infectiology to distinguish between different types of bacteria.
SynonymInfectious diseases, infectious medicine, infectious disease medicine
Significant diseasesInfections, e.g. osteomyelitis, pneumonia, tuberculosis, COVID-19, HIV/AIDS, influenza, also public health issues e.g. epidemics, antimicrobial resistance, bioterrorism
Significant testsGram staining, microbiological cultures (including blood cultures), serological tests, genotyping, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), medical imaging
SpecialistInfectious disease specialist, Infectiologist, Infectionist
GlossaryGlossary of medicine

Infectious diseases, also known as infectiology, is a medical specialty dealing with the diagnosis and treatment of complex infections. An infectious disease specialist's practice consists of managing nosocomial (healthcare-acquired) infections or community-acquired infections and is historically associated with travel medicine and tropical medicine.


Infectious diseases specialists typically serve as consultants to other physicians in cases of complex infections, and often manage patients with HIV/AIDS and other forms of immunodeficiency.[1][2] Although many common infections are treated by physicians without formal expertise in infectious diseases, specialists may be consulted for cases where an infection is difficult to diagnose or manage. They may also be asked to help determine the cause of a fever of unknown origin.[1][3]

Specialists in infectious diseases can practice both in hospitals (inpatient) and clinics (outpatient). In hospitals, specialists in infectious diseases help ensure the timely diagnosis and treatment of acute infections by recommending the appropriate diagnostic tests to identify the source of the infection and by recommending appropriate management such as prescribing antibiotics to treat bacterial infections. For certain types of infections, involvement of specialists in infectious diseases may improve patient outcomes.[4] In clinics, specialists in infectious diseases can provide long-term care to patients with chronic infections such as HIV/AIDS.


Infectious diseases are historically associated with travel medicine and tropical medicine, as many diseases acquired in tropical and subtropical areas are infectious in nature.[5]


Infectious diseases specialists employ a variety of diagnostic tests to help identify the pathogen that is causing an infection. Common tests include Gram staining, blood cultures, serological tests, genotyping, and polymerase chain reaction.


Infectious diseases specialists employ a variety of antimicrobial agents to help treat infections. The type of antimicrobial depends on the organism that is causing the infection. Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections; antiviral agents treat viral infections; and antifungal agents treat fungal infections.


NamesDoctor, Medical Specialist, Infectious diseases Consultant
Occupation type
Activity sectors
Education required
Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or
Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) or
Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (M.B.B.S./MBChB)
Fields of
Hospitals, Clinics

United States

In the United States, infectious diseases is a subspecialty of internal medicine and pediatrics[6] i.e., an internist does at least an additional two years of a fellowship and a pediatrician does at least three years to qualify as an infectious diseases specialist and take the infectious diseases board certification exam of the American Board of Internal Medicine or the American Board of Pediatrics. The exam has been given as a subspecialty of internal medicine since 1972 and as a subspecialty of pediatrics since 1994.[7][8]


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