• communicable disease/*trends/mortality;
  • education, medical/*trends;
  • *infectious disease reporting;
  • developing countries;
  • incidence;
  • publishing

Objective  The paradigm of global medical health has been re-characterised by a shift in its major focus from infectious disease to chronic illness. Opinions vary as to the declining emphasis on infectious disease. This paper provides clinicians with an understanding of a secular trend in medical education regarding the topic of infectious diseases over a period of 26 years.

Methods  A survey was carried out to evaluate coverage of infectious disease topics within recent general medicine textbooks and journals.

Results  The percentage of content dedicated to infectious disease has remained static in 2 major medical textbooks, whereas a trend towards decreasing coverage was shown in 4 major medical journals. Of 901 original articles published in 2000, 16·4% covered certain aspects of infectious disease, as compared with 20·9% of 790 articles published in 1985. Increasing rates of infectious disease mortality in developing countries were not consistently matched with the trend in coverage of infectious disease topics in either medical textbooks or journals.

Conclusions  Our data demonstrate that coverage of infectious disease topics in publications issued in developed countries was more indicative of global trends in disease mortality rather than those of developing countries. Medical education and knowledge, which are usually delivered by the rich nations where influential medical textbooks and journals are published, place less emphasis on infectious disease relative to the burden infectious disease places on the developing world.