IDRI - Infectious Disease Research Institute

A Different Kind of Hotspot

As someone who enjoys traveling abroad, I should know that watching the news before a trip is tempting fate. Another disease outbreak was front and center, and it was exactly the place where I was heading: South Korea during the MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak in May 2015.

I couldn’t stop looking at reports and mentally tabulating the growing count of how many more people were being infected by MERS just before heading off to South Korea, but it didn’t deter me from going abroad and I don’t think it would deter most people. We can’t wraphellokitty ourselves in a bubble.

I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived in the South Korean airport. Was it a code red situation with gurneys carrying the sick, wheeled across the airport floor? No, it was calm and many people were wearing face masks. The sale of face masks took off, creating a market for designer rhinestone-studded and Hello Kitty face masks. I did see signs that said that people were being thermo profiled and, if you seemed unwell, you were discreetly directed to another line. Little did I know, in my near future I would be working at IDRI on tuberculosis (TB), another respiratory disease.

I’m more informed about respiratory diseases, including TB, from my time at IDRI, where we are working on both new drugs and vaccines for that disease. I have a healthy respect for diseases, but I’m not frozen in fear either. Being a healthy individual in the first place is a good deterrent. The precautions of using a face mask or a scarf are good idea because some people — like those living in a “hotspot” environment — don’t have the luxury to move on and leave the threat of disease behind. (more…)

Leprosy: It’s Still Here


Malcolm Duthie, right, visits a home in the Philippines, where leprosy still remains a problem, particularly for younger people.

As we near the end of the first month of 2016, it’s hard to believe that a disease first mentioned in written records in 600 BC still exists in today’s world. But the reality is leprosy is still here – found in more than 100 countries around the world. According to our colleagues at the American Leprosy Missions, 52 children around the world are diagnosed with leprosy … every day. And we know that many more will remain undiagnosed due to stigma, fear and lack of medical expertise.


IDRI leprosy diagnostics

These statistics are even harder to digest when we note that leprosy was targeted for elimination by the early 2000s. According to case reports, that goal was achieved. Yet news stories about leprosy still abound. In fact, leprosy cases spiked in the U.S. in 2015, nearly tripling in the state of Florida. Several states in India today are reporting levels above the national elimination threshold, indicating either a resurgence of the disease has occurred or that it was never really gone in the first place.

From visits to the Philippines, where IDRI collaborates with partners in Cebu, I know the effects of leprosy firsthand. I see young patients – teenagers or people in their early 20s — living in poor conditions in close proximity to one another, often in families of 10 or more. The potential for new cases or resurgence in this setting is striking.

As we observe World Leprosy Day on Sunday, Jan. 31, we, at IDRI, along with our collaborators around the world, are working diligently on new solutions. By combining currently available leprosy drugs with the diagnostics and vaccine we are developing, we will finally have all the tools necessary to bring an end to this biblical era disease.

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



IDRI’s 3rd Annual Gift Guide for Geeks

The pressure is on. Shopping days are numbered. Expectations are high.

What do you get for your favorite geek on your holiday shopping list??? We asked that question of IDRI employees, who shared their recommendations for their best gift ideas for

What happens when the power goes out and your cell phone dies? Never fear, says Chris Antony. Just make sure you have this hand crank emergency charger on hand. A great stocking stuffer!

For the geek who likes to cook, Rob Lin suggests these two great cookbooks that combine science and cooking: The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science and Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Cooks and Good Food.

For the geek who likes a nice glass of wine every now and again, Elyse Beebe suggests these beaker wine glasses from the I Love Science Store.

From Alyssa Manning: “I suggest My Inventions: The Autobiography of Nikola Tesla. I got it for my geeky Dad last year!”

If you have loved ones who want to use technology to monitor their health, Aarthy Vallur recommends the AliveCor Mobile ECG. “It’s a great gift for parents or retirees. I got one for both my Dad and my in-laws and they love it!” (more…)

Now is the Time: HIV Cure

HIV-AIDSA couple years ago, the Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands convened dozens of leaders from science, government, philanthropy and industry at a meeting called the “Summit on Public-Private Partnerships for Research Toward a Cure.” IDRI was honored to be represented at this meeting as we discussed ways to bring HIV to an end. From this meeting the following strong and important consensus statement was agreed upon:

 “More than 30 years into the global HIV/AIDS pandemic, scientific and clinical research has taken us to the point where a cure for HIV/AIDS is possible. Driven by the evidence supporting such possibility, The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands recently brought together key stakeholders from academia, government, foundations, and industry to discuss what actions could be taken to accelerate efforts towards the goal of a cure for HIV infection. The group concluded that now is the time to work collectively and aggressively to reach this goal with the ultimate objective of making a cure available to every person in need, wherever they happen to live in the world.

Although effective antiviral therapies exist that can control HIV infection, curing HIV/AIDS — eradicating the virus from infected individuals or eliminating the need for lifelong antiviral therapy — will require an extraordinary, collaborative global effort, backed by strong and sustained political and industrial leadership. We believe that developing a cure for HIV is one of the most important biomedical challenges of the 21st century. It is clear that the task is too large and too complex for any one laboratory, company, or country to undertake in isolation. (more…)

Antibiotic Resistance: Are You Contributing to the Problem?

How many times have you been prescribed antibiotics and didn’t finish the course of treatment? Maybe you were feeling better orantibiotics  thought “I could save the rest of these in case I get sick again.” If so, you are a contributor to the rise of antibiotic resistance – and you might not realize it.

This week, Nov. 16-22, has been designated by the World Health Organization as “World Antibiotic Awareness Week,” designed to increase awareness of global antibiotic resistance and encourage best practices, such as completing a full course of antibiotics when prescribed and not sharing antibiotics prescribed for you with others.

“The rise of antibiotic resistance is a global crisis. It’s one of the greatest threats to health today. This makes a broad range of common infections much more difficult to treat, replacement treatment are more costly, more toxic, and require much longer periods of time for treatment,” WHO director-general Dr. Margaret Chan said in a news conference. (more…)

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