The origin of at least 60 per cent of infectious-disease cases on the mainland is a mystery, a top health official has admitted. He blamed the situation on years of government neglect. 'Sixty per cent is a very conservative estimate,' said the official, Xu Jianguo, head of the Chinese Centre of Disease Control and Prevention. 'The mainland is facing severe threats in the form of both emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases,' Dr Xu said. 'But our diagnosis and examination capabilities are woefully inadequate, so we cannot fight them effectively.' Tuberculosis, syphilis and several other infectious diseases have seen a resurgence in recent years, he said, while new types of infectious diseases such as cholera and legionnaire's disease are starting to take a toll. Last year, 2.3 million people contracted infectious diseases on the mainland, the health ministry says, and death rates from such ailments are climbing. In the past three years, the rate has risen from 1.4 per 1,000 cases to two per 1,000. 'Problems were exposed during the Sars outbreak that showed we lag far behind developed countries in diagnosis, treatment and research of emerging infectious diseases, as well as in human resources, technology and equipment,' Dr Xu said. 'It is the result of years of neglect by the government.' An official with the Beijing Disease Control Centre said the institute lacked the resources to study the emergence of diseases. 'We are still busy with Sars-related matters,' she said. 'We have no time to give to [the study of] other infectious diseases at present.' Since the threat of Sars has subsided, others have appeared. At least 290 people have contracted Japanese encephalitis in Guangdong in recent weeks and 24 have died. Thousands are threatened with a range of infectious diseases as a result of the flooding in Henan, Anhui, Jiangsu and Guangxi provinces. Most scientific work related to infectious diseases on the mainland was still in the laboratory phase, Dr Xu said. 'Due to lack of funding, further research cannot be carried out.'