Historically, infectious diseases have posed a significant threat to Soldier health and readiness and typically constituted the majority of deaths in deployed military units. In this environment, WRAIR's predecessor, the Army Medical School, was created in 1893 - it's founder, Army Surgeon General George Sternberg remarked that the "duty of an Army Medical officer is to preserve the efficiency of his command by guarding it against unsanitary influence and preventing disability from diseases." Nearly 50 years later, during World War 2, General Douglas MacArthur complained "this will be a long war if for every division I have facing the enemy, I must count on a second division in the hospital with malaria and a third division convalescing from this debilitating disease!"
It is the nature of modern military operations that Soldiers must be prepared to be stationed abroad for extended periods of time, sometimes with short notice and in regions where they have little to no inborn immunity to endemic disease threats. In order for the fighting force to remain intact, ready, and lethal, they require safe and effective medical countermeasures.
WRAIR's Center for Infectious Disease Research (CIDR) combines scientific expertise with product development capabilities to address the full range of diseases of national security importance to the U.S. Military. CIDR scientists, along with their collaborators, surveil the incidence and evolution of existing and emerging pathogens around the world to inform combatant commanders of endemic threats to their Soldiers. These data are then used to inform and direct product discovery and development efforts.
Though WRAIR’s research is focused on Soldier health, its products have important civilian applications, saving countless lives around the world.