Over the past decade, microbiology and infectious disease research have undergone the most profound revolution since the times of Pasteur. Genomic sequencing has revealed the much-awaited blueprint of most pathogens. Screening blood for the nucleic acids of infectious agents has blunted the spread of pathogens by transfusion, the field of antiviral therapeutics has exploded and technologies for the development of novel and safer vaccines have become available. The quantum jump in our ability to detect, prevent and treat infectious diseases resulting from improved technologies and genomics was moderated during this period by the greatest emergence of new infectious agents ever recorded and a worrisome increase in resistance to existing therapies. Dozens of new infectious diseases are expected to emerge in the coming decades. Controlling these diseases will require a better understanding of the worldwide threat and economic burden of infectious diseases and a global agenda.