IDRI - Infectious Disease Research Institute

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.

New Orleans 2015 079

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

Up for the Challenge: Bike to Work

At IDRI, we’re never afraid of a challenge — whether it’s tackling infectious diseases or biking to work. Once again, IDRI isDSC_0711 fielding teams for the Bike to Work challenge; we are small but mighty in comparison to some of the area’s large employers!

Last year, IDRI riders pedaled 195 one way trips for 3,096 miles and commuted in by bike 70.8% of work days in May. This roughly equates to 151,719 calories burned, or 1,076 cans of Rainier beer. By not driving to work every day, we saved 3,033 pounds of CO2 from going into the air. If you figure the average car gets 23 miles per gallon and gas was about $3.90 a gallon, we saved 134 gallons of fuel and about $525. Not bad, I’d say.

Even though gas is cheaper this year, that hasn’t kept three teams of IDRI bikers from jumping on our bikes this month. We realize how easy it is to replace some or all of our commutes with biking (especially when driving or bussing part of the way still counts). Enough people ride here at IDRI, so it’s pretty easy to find a buddy to commute with. (more…)

TB Cases in Local School Stir College Memories


Recent reports of tuberculosis cases in a local high school dredged up memories of a time this disease paid a visit to the college I attended …

Word spread through the hallways of the dorm: “Lacy’s sick, and she won’t be back for a while.”

We assumed that our friend, who’d gone home for a few days, had the flu or a stomach bug.

But Lacy, who lived directly across the hall from me during our senior year at Mississippi University for Women, didn’t return very quickly – in fact, it was weeks before we saw her again.

Diagnosed with active tuberculosis, Lacy was sent to Memphis to recuperate at a hospital, isolated from friends and family during what should have been one of the best times of her life. TB took its toll on Lacy – and on the people around her.

Those of us who lived in close proximity found ourselves at the county health department on a regular basis – for TB skin tests and chest x-rays. Like many young people in the U.S., I’d taken my health for granted, and, all of a sudden, I realized I was vulnerable. Luckily, no one else developed active TB, and Lacy eventually returned – to school and to good health. (more…)

TB Inspired Shorter Hemlines, Recliners

cure chair

Yesterday’s tuberculosis “cure chair” inspired today’s recliner.

Tuberculosis is a disease that has plagued mankind throughout history. The mark it has left on our society is usually quantified in the number of people infected and the number of deaths it has caused.

What are not generally discussed are changes in societal norms that were a either a direct result of or due in part to the discovery that TB was caused by contagious bacteria. As we reflect on World TB Day (March 24), the following are some interesting changes in society that were brought on by tuberculosis.

In previous centuries, spitting in public was a common occurrence. “No Spitting” public service announcements were distributed on flyers and run in newspapers, culminating in some communities banning the practice altogether.

Women’s clothing fashion also changed once spit was identified as a source of infection. Dresses of the day were long and dragged the ground as women walked through the streets. Not wanting to drag their clothing through potentially infectious spit in the streets, hemlines were raised leading to shorter dresses and skirts. (more…)

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