IDRI - Infectious Disease Research Institute

Avoid Unwanted Travelers During Vacation

As we move into August, everyone wants to get in a summer vacation before Labor Day. There’s no better way to bring your Travel-Medicine_Reducedvacation to a screeching halt than an encounter with an infectious disease, which is unfortunately a likely occurrence.

In summer 2015, nearly 200 million Americans are planning a vacation – almost 85 percent of American are planning at least a one week getaway. According to the New York Times, traveler’s diarrhea is the most common health problem a traveler encounters, but there are others lurking as well.

Going on a cruise? You’ve probably read the stories about what happens when the notorious norovirus comes along for the ride. But norovirus isn’t just for cruise ships anymore – it’s now causing problems on tour buses.  In August 2014, a survey of bus drivers in Yellowstone National Park showed  that five buses were carrying passengers who had diarrhea or vomiting — both symptoms of norovirus.

Going on a plane? Hopefully you won’t be as unlucky as Samuel L. Jackson who encountered numerous Snakes on a Plane; however, you will most definitely come across Pathogens on a Plane.With recirculating air and forced close proximity, airplanes have a bad reputation as hotbeds of disease. (more…)

IDRI’s Summer Reading List

summer-reading-logoWith a long weekend looming and vacations starting, the annual summer reading lists have begun to appear. We thought it would be fun to share what IDRI employees are reading this summer – you might be surprised!

Ayesha Misquith just finished reading Still Alice by Lisa Genova, which portrays an accomplished female professor who realizes she has early onset Alzheimer’s disease, which is a devastating diagnosis as this form of Alzheimer’s (under the age of 65) is more aggressive and rapidly progressing than the older onsets. “It resonates with the work we do at IDRI, to be able to accurately diagnose a disease and the race to find a cure for it,” said Ayesha, who also recommended checking out this list in Nature for popular “lab lit” summer reading.

With two little ones at home, Jessica Cohen is skimming through books — including Brain Rules for Baby by Dr. John Medina and Positive Discipline by Dr. Jane Nelsen —  about babies and preschoolers and what scientists have learned about baby development, parenting and sleeps. (more…)

From the Field: Visiting Leprosy-Affected Families

rural fam 1

At a rural farm, visiting with families affected by leprosy.

During a recent visit to Cebu, Philippines, I was privileged to join the Leonard Wood Memorial surveillance team, which was visiting with patients and their families in their homes as part of our Novartis Global Foundation-funded program. The goal of this program is to integrate rapid diagnostic tests into these visits and potentially identify emerging leprosy cases earlier than is currently possible among this higher risk group.

urban fam 3c

This family is living with leprosy (photo intentionally blurred to protect patients).

One family we visited numbered 16 in total; the dad was recently diagnosed with leprosy infection. He was a Jeepney driver, a job requiring reasonable dexterity in the hands and feet to enable safe driving. As the sole breadwinner for his large family, advancement of his disease to the point of affecting his ability to drive would be devastating.

rural fam 1g

Joining the surveillance team for lunch.

We then continued on to visit another family in the countryside. The hospitality offered by each family we visited was incredible, and this particular family invited us to stay for a lunch that they had prepared especially for us. In this situation, the patient was the 21-year-old son, who had dropped out of school a couple of years ago because of his unknown (at that time) but very visible condition. One of his sisters was home on vacation from her studies in the city, which are supported through a scholarship. The remarkable drawings from a 14-year-old were proudly displayed in the small home. The potential in this family is tremendous, showing just how important it is to monitor them for M. leprae infection and intervene early.

My work takes me to clinics around the world, from Brazil to the Philippines, and it’s devastating to see this disease in action.  But, with new tools — like our diagnostic test — we can make a positive difference for families like those I met recently.


Posted by Malcolm Duthie, Ph.D., Senior Scientist/Principal Investigator

The Silent Soldiers of War

memorial_day_wallpaper_highAs Memorial Day arrives to herald the start of summer, it’s time to pause in remembrance of U.S. Armed Forces members who lost their lives during service to their country. And, over the course of time, hundreds of thousands of those lives were claimed by silent soldiers that have no loyalty to country or flag, with no respect for borders: infectious diseases.

During the U.S. Civil War, disease claimed more lives than bullets; upwards of two-thirds of deaths in the war were attributed to disease. Smallpox, along with dysentery, typhoid fever, scarlet fever, measles, malaria, consumption (tuberculosis) and a host of other infectious diseases, cut a swath through soldiers on both sides.

Often before they even faced their human enemies, soldiers were hit by a wave of infection,  soon after arrival in camp. Those from rural areas were most vulnerable, lacking the immunity to childhood diseases those from urban areas often had.  And, disease epidemics played a significant role in halting several major campaigns during the Civil War, with these delays prolonging the fighting by as much as two years. (more…)

A Trip Back in Time: National Hansen’s Disease Museum in Carville, LA

New Orleans 2015 085Recently, I was in New Orleans to give a talk at Tulane University and found I had a few extra hours to explore. Instead of spending time in the French Quarter or on Bourbon Street, I knew where I wanted to visit: Carville, LA.

This small town about 70 miles northwest of New Orleans is home to the National Hansen’s Disease Museum, which honors the thousands of men and women who lived in Carville at the National Leprosarium of the U.S. while being treated for leprosy, as well as the health professionals who cared for the patients.

The museum offers look at the disease and its effects, as well as how the discovery of antibiotics to treat the disease greatly helped patients.

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New Orleans 2015 071Some of the exhibits showed how everyday items – from keys to food utensils to writing instruments — were adapted for leprosy patients.


New Orleans 2015 073A typical patient’s room is on display, along with a wheelchair used by thoseNew Orleans 2015 076 with foot deformities.














New Orleans 2015 069editedPerhaps one of the most moving displays showed how the discovery of antibiotics to treat leprosy positively impacted the lives of patients. Dr. Guy Henry Faget, an American doctor who served as director of the National Leprosarium, is credited with revolutionizing the treatment of leprosy through the use of promin, a sulfone compound.


While the advent of antibiotics has certainly helped those affected by leprosy, the disease still remains an issue in many parts of the world and is still found in the U.S. Diagnostics to detect infection and vaccines to prevent the disease will round out the tools needed to eliminate leprosy. IDRI is working on both.

As I visited the museum, I spoke with one of the people working there and told her about IDRI’s work. She’s expressed interest in learning more about our diagnostics and perhaps even adding information about our work to the museum.

Next time you are in Louisiana, visit Carville, and you might see IDRI’s contributions on display.

Posted by Darrick Carter, Ph.D., Vice President, Adjuvant Technology

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