Infectious Diseases

Who We Are

The Center for Infectious Diseases and Prevention at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center provides comprehensive evaluation and treatment of patients with infectious diseases, both on an inpatient and outpatient basis. Our staff is committed to patient care and education. Our goal is to provide the highest level of clinical care, with an emphasis on preventing disease before it occurs through the appropriate use of antibiotics and vaccines.

In This Section

Learn More About Infectious Diseases

Clinical Expertise

Our team of Lahey physicians and nurses has broad expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases due to bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites and works in concert with full-service laboratories specializing in microbiology, immunology, and parasitology. Our staff is also extensively trained in the identification and management of the agents of bioterrorism and the prevention and treatment of hospital-acquired infections. Additionally, members of the department specialize in treating infections related to immunosuppressive therapy and those with solid organ transplants.

Our Travel and Tropical Medicine Clinic provides vaccines and medications to prevent and treat common travel-related infections (e.g., malaria or traveler’s diarrhea) and more unusual diseases acquired abroad (e.g., Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), dengue fever, and leprosy).

Many of the patients we treat have illnesses such as bone and joint or soft tissue infections, urinary tract infections, meningitis and pneumonia. Our staff also has a strong clinical interest in patients with fever of unknown origin, pulmonary or extrapulmonary tuberculosis, hepatitis, AIDS/HIV, Lyme disease and other tick-borne infections.

Ongoing Research

We are currently involved in research studies evaluating antibiotic-resistant bacteria and new methods of prevention and management of infectious diseases in critical care units and for patients with post-operative infections.

Our staff publishes in a number of research journals each year.

You can also search our clinical trials database for current trials on infectious disease.

About Infectious Disease Specialists

An infectious disease (ID) specialist is a physician with advanced training in the diagnosis and treatment of illnesses caused by microorganisms or germs. Because their training and experience cover a unique cross-section of medicine, ID specialists often are asked to evaluate and oversee challenging cases. ID specialists practice both in hospitals and in office settings.

What kind of training do ID specialists have?

ID physicians undergo nine to ten years of education and training. After four years of medical school, he or she spent three more years being trained as a doctor of internal medicine. This is followed by two to three years of specialized training in infectious diseases. All Lahey Hospital & Medical Center ID specialists also are board certified, which means they have passed an examination by the American Board of Internal Medicine and are certified in both internal medicine and infectious diseases.

What kinds of patients and cases do ID specialists treat?

ID specialists diagnose and treat conditions resulting from all types of infections, including those caused by germs such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. These microscopic organisms penetrate the body’s natural barriers and multiply, creating symptoms ranging from sore throat and fever (as in the case of strep throat) to more serious and even deadly problems (such as AIDS or meningitis).

ID specialists also see patients to determine whether their symptoms are due infection. Most commonly, the patient has a fever.

Microbiology Laboratory

The Microbiology Laboratory is one of many labs at Lahey Hospital. The main purpose of this laboratory is to assist in the diagnosis of infectious diseases. This starts with the patient entering the healthcare system and presenting with certain signs and symptoms consistent with an infectious disease. The patient’s physician then orders specific tests to clarify the presence of an infectious disease. These diseases can include those caused by bacteria (e.g., Group A streptococcus that may cause strep throat); those caused by viruses (e.g., influenza A that cause the flu); those caused by fungi (e.g., Candida, which may cause vaginal yeast infections); or those caused by parasites (e.g., Giardia, which may cause diarrhea).

Who works in the Microbiology Laboratory?

A range of personnel performs testing and oversees the Microbiology Laboratory. Medical technologists, who are highly trained professionals and have bachelor’s degrees in medical technology or microbiology, perform the daily testing. The lab is directed by a board-certified physician with specialty training in microbiology and infectious diseases.

How does the lab diagnose your infection?

In order for microbiology to aid in diagnosing the correct infectious disease, a number of steps occur. The first step is the collection of the appropriate specimens to diagnose the patient’s disease. For instance, if an infection of the bladder is a possibility, the physician may order a urinalysis that looks at the cell types present in the urine, such as red and white blood cells, as well as a urine specimen for a culture to grow the organism that is causing the infection.

Specimens may be collected from a number of different sources, including blood, urine, and swab specimens of the throat. Sometimes a more invasive technique using a needle or other special instrument is required to collect the specimen. This first step in microbiology diagnosis of infectious disease is very important! A good quality specimen means the best chance of diagnosing the infectious disease.

What test methods are used to find the organism?

After the collection of the specimen and input from the physician about what the possible infectious disease may be, the laboratory decides what technique is best to identify the infectious disease and the organism likely causing the problem. All of the techniques look for some product of an organism. The time it takes to identify the organism is dependent on the technique used, as well as how complicated the testing process may be. For the patient, this means the lab may be able to provide an answer in anywhere from 15 minutes to eight weeks!

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Make an Appointment

Generally, your doctor will request a consultation with an infectious disease (ID) specialist due to the complicated nature of your illness. For your health and safety, you should follow your doctor’s instructions to make this appointment.

If you are making your own appointment at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center, call the Appointment Office at 781-744-8000 (hours of operation: 7:45 am to 7:00 pm Monday through Thursday; and 7:45 am to 5:00 pm on Friday).

Some insurance plans require you to obtain a referral from your primary care physician prior to being seen by an ID specialist. This referral should be obtained after you make your appointment at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center and before you see the specialist.