National Institute of Infectious Diseases

Introduction To National Institute of Infectious Diseases



Immediately after World War II, Japan suffered from various infectious diseases caused by poor sanitation; infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, typhoid fever, dysentery, diphtheria, Japanese encephalitis, and parasitic infections were rampant, while many other infectious diseases were newly introduced from foreign countries. Under such circumstances, infectious disease control became a high-priority issue for establishing a safe and secure society in the developing nation. In 1947, the National Institute of Health (NIH), which was later renamed as the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, was established as a research institute attached to the Ministry of Health and Welfare for conducting (i) fundamental and applied research on infectious diseases and (ii) national test for lot release and development of antibiotics and vaccines.

In 1892, the Institute for Infectious Disease was founded as a private institute in attached to the Hygiene Society of Japan (Dr. Shibasaburo Kitasato was the founding dean). The institute was then supervised by the Ministry of Home Affairs to enable its transition into an Imperial Institute of Infectious Disease, which was later transferred to the Ministry of Education and finally incorporated into the Tokyo Imperial University as the Institute for Infectious Disease (IID) in 1914. Despite the frequent change of its name and jurisdiction, the institute had consistently played a central role in infectious disease research in our country.

Half of the faculty members of IID were recruited for the establishment of NIH. The new institute initially included 3 departments (research department, quality control department, and pilot production department) and an administration section, which shared the facilities with IID. In 1950s, to comply with the organizational regulation of the Ministry of Health and Welfare, NIH was expanded to 12 research departments, including bacteriology, virology/rickettsiology, tuberculosis, seroimmunology, and antibacterial substances. In 1955, NIH moved to the site of closed Naval Staff College, Kamiosaki, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo (Shinagawa Laboratories). Meanwhile, IID, which remained and developed independently at the original site, was reorganized as the Institute of Medical Science of the University of Tokyo in 1967.

To cope with the large-scale epidemic of poliomyelitis, occurring in 1958, new facilities for test production and national test for lot release of poliomyelitis vaccines were urgently needed, and laboratories for quality control of vaccines were established in Musashi Murayama-shi in 1961 (Murayama Branch Laboratories). Thereafter, the Central Virus Diagnostic Laboratory and the Department of Measles Virus were established within the Murayama Branch Laboratories in 1963 and 1965, respectively.

In 1978, the Tsukuba Primate Center for Medical Science was established as a branch of the Institute to provide monkeys of homogeneous quality necessary for national test for lot release and research work.

On the basis of the report dealing with the ideal status of the National Institute of Health (August 25, 1984), the whole Institute was reorganized after due consideration on separation of the research section from the quality control section. In 1992, the Shinagawa Laboratories were moved to the present site, Toyama, Sinjuku-ku, Tokyo (Toyama Research Laboratories). The quality control sections (vaccines and blood products) were concentrated to the Murayama Branch Laboratories. In the meanwhile, the AIDS Research Center was established in 1988 to deal with AIDS problems as an emerging infection.

In January 1997, the National Institute of Leprosy Research became a Branch of this Institute and started again its functions as the Leprosy Research Center. The Institute was renamed the National Institute of Infectious Diseases to show off more clearly the objectives of its establishment in April of the same year. At the same time, the Department of Epidemiology was reorganized into the Infectious Disease Surveillance Center to collect all the information of incidents of infectious diseases in the same place for enabling rapid measures.

The National Institute of Infectious disease has been reorganized one part of the organization since April 2002. The reason is to strengthen study system, and to promote research studies and its substantiality. This object has been guided by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare as consistency of important point preparation and rebuilding of research institute on the basis of general promotion of public welfare scietific research for 21st century. Laboratories of Cariology and Periodontology of the Department of Oral Science in NIID has been integrated into the National Institute of Public Health. The Bacteriology and Virology Laboratories in the National Institute of Public health has been integrated into the Infectious Disease Surveillance Center in NIID. The Department of Biomedical Food Research has been transferred to the National Institute of Health Sciences.

In April 2005, the Division of Genetic Resources, the Tsukuba Primate Center for Medical Science and the Laboratory of Animal Models of the Department of Veterinary Science have moved to National Institute of Biomedical Innovation. In October 2005, the Division of Molecular Genetics has been reorganized into the Pathogen Genomics Center to conduct extensive molecular research on genomes of pathogenic viruses and bacteria in humans.

In April 2007, the Division of Quality Assurance was founded to assure the reliability of the national tests on biological products and antibiotics, and to manage the standard materials for testing.

In April 2009, the Influenza Virus Research Center was founded to expand and promote research activities related to the influenza virus. Accordingly, the Department of Virology III was redefined as a department responsible for research on respiratory viral diseases other than influenza. Moreover, in the Leprosy Research Center, the Departments of Microbiology and Bioregulation were expanded and integrated into a single department; the Department of Infection Control. It will develop efficient system for conducting fundamental and applied leprosy research and mycobacteriology.


The Institute aims at carrying out extensive and original research projects on a variety of contagious diseases from the standpoint of preventive medicine, improving human health and welfare by suppressing infectious diseases, and clarifying and supporting the scientific background of health and medical administration of the government. These functions may be summarized into 1)research activities, 2)reference services for infectious diseases, 3)surveillance of infectious diseases, 4)national control tests and other tests, 5)international cooperation, and 6)training activities.

  1. Basic and applied research on infectious diseases

    Basic and applied research projects on infectious and other intractable diseases associated with the immune systems are under way. Particularly, molecular biological analyses of the etiological agents as well as development and application of rapid diagnostic methods and vaccines for important diseases emerging or re-emerging and also other traditional diseases are the main projects. Research on development of recombinant and other new concept-based vaccines (e.g., mucomembranous and DNA vaccines) are being worked out actively. Research dimension is being enlarged for development of vectors and safety evaluation of gene therapy, which is presently becoming more and more popular. The currently important subjects among infectious diseases in the world are AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, etc.

  2. Reference services for infectious diseases

    The reference services include all that are necessary for ensuring the assay systems for infectious diseases. In concrete terms, the services involve storing and supplying pathogenic agents (pathogenic micro-organisms and their products, parasites, and vector insects), standardizing the reagents, preparing and supplying reference materials needed for diagnosis and surveillance of infectious diseases, educating professional technicians, and information exchange. To carry on with these infectious disease reference services more smoothly, a reference committee was organized in 1986, and in cooperation with prefectural public health institutes, a communication network system has been organized to control infectious diseases.

  3. Infectious disease surveillance program, and collection, analysis, and distribution of information on infectious diseases

    As a national project of surveillance, this Institute collects reports of detection of infectious agents from prefectural public health institutes and those of incidents of infectious diseases from sentinel clinics in the whole country, and this information is made accessible to the public. In case of occurrence of an epidemic or outbreak of an infectious disease, epidemiological investigations will be carried out and the information exchanged with infectious disease surveillance organizations in other countries. To make these activities more efficient, the Infectious Disease Surveillance Center organized in April 1997 serves as a kernel and this Center is responsible for surveillance on all of targeted diseases by Infectious Disease Control Law.

  4. National control and other tests and research on quality control of biological products and antibiotics
    1. Biological products (various vaccines and blood products) for prophylaxis, therapy and diagnosis of infectious and certain noninfectious diseases are being subjected to national control tests for guaranteeing the efficacy, safety and homogeneity.
    2. Administratively requested tests and other tests of biological products, antibiotics, disinfectants, insecticides, and a variety of viruses, sera, and antibiotics requested by clients are being carried on.
    3. References materials for such biological products and antibiotic products necessary for national control tests and other tests (diagnostic sera and antigens, standard streptomycin, etc.) and such products of rare use or difficult to prepare but must always be available as plague vaccine are being produced.
    4. Besides, effective prophylactics, diagnostic antigens, and antisera, a large-scale production of which is expected on account of the future progress in the research, are being produced on probation.
  5. International cooperation activities

    Following the Japans joining to World Health Organization (WHO), this institute was assigned as a WHO-collaborative Influenza Center in April 1951. Thereafter, such many other centers and reference laboratories as listed below have been assigned to this Institute. By assignment of so many WHO centers and WHO reference laboratories, this Institute is playing important international roles in isolation and identification of infectious agents, epidemiological investigation, preparing, maintaining and supplying standard and reference materials, improving and standardizing laboratory diagnosis, training technical staffs and experts, reporting epidemiological and infectious agent information, conducting control measures for infectious disease outbreaks as a sole central institute in this country.

    1. WHO-designated centers and WHO reference laboratories
      • Japanese encephalitis global specialized laboratory (Department of Virology I)
      • Collaborating Center for Virus Reference and Research (Enterovirus) (Department of Virology II)
      • Polio Global Specialized Laboratory (Department of Virology II)
      • Polio Regional Reference Laboratory (Department of Virology II)
      • Global Specialised Laboratory for Measles and Rubella (Department of Virology III)
      • Regional Reference Laboratory for Measles and Rubella (Department of Virology III)
      • SARS Research Network Laboratory (Department of Virology III)
      • Collaborating Center for Reference and Research on Influenza (Influenza Virus Research Center)
      • H5 Influenza Reference Laboratory (Influenza Virus Research Center)
      • Essential Regulatory Laboratory (Influenza Virus Research Center)
      • Collaborating Center for Research and Reference Services for Immunological and Biological Products (Department of Bacteriology II)
      • Human Papillomavirus Laboratory Network Regional Reference Laboratory (Pathogen Genomics Center)
    2. International Union of Microbiological Societies (IUMS)-assigned center laboratories
      • Enteric Phage-typing Center (Department of Bacteriology I)
    3. Training programs

      Various kinds of group and individual technical training on AIDS, poliomyelitis and leprosy are being given to oversea trainees. Training programs have been planned and executed also for workers of domestic research institutes and the field of public health.

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