New director of the Emerging Infections Subcommittee

Prof. Deborah Williamson has been appointed as the new Director of the Emering Infections Subcommittee


We welcome Prof. Deborah Williamson as the new Director of the Emering Infections Subcommittee. In this new role, she will shape the development and strategy of the new subcommittee, as well as managing the ESCMID activities related to emering infections. Prof. Deborah Williamson is a clinical and public health microbiologist, and Director of Specialised Microbiology and Laboratories at the UK Health Security Agency. She was formerly Director of the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory and Professor of Public Health Microbiology at the Doherty Institute, University of Melbourne. She has published over 270 papers in areas such as genomics, diagnostics, and emerging infectious diseases. Her work across public health laboratories, academia and government has directly influenced the way microbiology is applied to clinical practice and public health, including responses to antimicrobial resistance and emerging infectious diseases. 


ESCMID Emerging Infections Task Force (EITaF)

About EITaF

The task force has been established by the Executive Committee and it is chaired by Eskild Petersen (Denmark). The aims are:

  • Provide ESCMID members with up to date information on outbreaks with epidemic or pandemic potential or posing a threat to travellers to the outbreak area.
  • Provide material to the ESCMID executive committee on emerging infections including threat evaluation.
  • Establish a panel of experts (clinicians and microbiologist) who can assist to evaluate emerging infections threats and how and where to diagnose emerging infections including identification of unknown pathogens.
  • Provide background material on emerging threats through reviews and position papers.
  • Organize workshops on emerging infections in collaboration with the ESCMID study groups.
  • Stimulate research on emerging infections including surveillance and diagnostics.


Infectious diseases are dynamic. Outbreaks of known diseases continue to surprise us (Ebola) and new diseases appear, often from zoonotic reservoirs (H5N1 influenza, SARS, Nipah, MERS, SFTS, H7N9 influenza). Influenza is endemic with outbreaks and unpredictable pandemics, the last in 2009, and new zoonotic influenza types may change and be able to sustain human-to-human transmission.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa showed that outbreaks in remote parts of the world will only be identified with considerable delay, local capacity to detect the unexpected is almost non-existent, and the response handled by many volunteer organizations with little experience of a highly infectious disease.

Food borne outbreaks will be more frequent in the future due to food production being concentrated to a few suppliers. Recent examples are the VTEC and hepatitis A outbreaks in Europe, Cyclospora in the US and Canada and Salmonella in Australia.

ESCMID has the experts needed to address new emerging and re-emerging threats both with regard to knowledge and laboratories, with state of the art technologies able to provide rapid analysis of any specimens.

Once the microorganism has been identified control measures can be developed whether personal protection, environmental protection and preventing hospital  infections.