Infectious Insights Blog

Chagas Disease: The Kiss of Death?

It’s sometimes called “the kiss of death.” American trypanosomiasis, more commonly known as Chagas disease, is classified as one of the 10 most important neglected tropical diseases by the World Health Organization (WHO). It’s caused by the bite of a bug from the Triatominae family, commonly referred to as “kissing bugs”, that directly transmit the parasite T. cruzi to mammals, including humans, through their feces after they have bitten and taken a blood meal from their host. How do they do this? By biting humans around their lips and faces as they sleep – hence the nickname “kissing bugs.” Endemic in Mexico, Central and South America, an estimated 8 million people are infected by the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi (T. cruzi infection), resulting in at least 10,000 directly attributable deaths per year. Given that surveillance and diagnostic testing for Chagas disease is limited, the true disease and mortality burden are [...]

August 9th, 2017| |

True Detective: Diagnosing the Hard to Detect

Over the years, IDRI has developed expertise in diagnosing the hard to detect – from leprosy, which was determined based on hard-to-recognize clinical symptoms, to leishmaniasis, which previously utilized painful procedures including aspirating liver or spleen tissue. Malaria also has a somewhat complicated process for detection. It relies on reviewing clinical symptoms and looking for malaria parasites in the blood under a microscope, which is not simple or easy to do. And, it doesn’t provide information related to whether or not transmission of infection is ongoing or is eliminated. Recently, I was invited to by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Institut Pasteur to attend a malaria serology workshop in Paris. Following the same pattern as many other diseases, there is current desire within the malaria field to generate simple tests that can be used to detect infected individuals and objectively quantify the extent of disease burden within [...]

July 11th, 2017| |

PhD or No PhD: Two Pathways to Success

One of the features of IDRI is the variety of jobs and career paths we have – from operations to quality control to formulations to preclinical work to drug hunting. Each performs a vital role in building an organization able to accomplish our scientific goals and meet our mission. Even among the scientific staff, there are a variety of roles and responsibilities, all of which mean multiple career paths for our staff. One of the points at which careers can diverge is at the post-graduate level and the choice to undertake studies resulting in a PhD - the doctoral degree that turns you into a “post-doc” overnight. These studies are a major undertaking for any scientist and range from 3-6 years of full time research. So, what are the differences that this can make to a scientific career? While it might seem that gaining additional training would always be beneficial, [...]

June 26th, 2017| |

Mankind vs. Microbes: What Keeps You Up at Night?

“I did it to keep you safe.” Lynda Stuart, MD, of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation shared a memory from her childhood in the Caribbean: After being immunized for BCG (the vaccine given in some part of the world to protect against tuberculosis), she tearfully looked up at her mother and asked “Why did you do that?” Her mom’s answer: “To keep you safe.” Stuart, along with IDRI scientific leaders Dan Stinchcomb, PhD, and Tanya Parish, PhD, were invited speakers at recent panel discussion hosted by The Rainier Club in Seattle. Moderated by Washington Global Health Alliance founding executive director Lisa Cohen, the panel focused on “Mankind vs. Microbes: Seattle’s Role in the Battle against Infectious Disease.” Stuart kicked off the discussion by sharing her vaccination story and urging people to remember the importance of vaccines in today’s world. “I’m frustrated locally with the number of people who do [...]

June 8th, 2017| |

Leishmaniasis Coming Out of the Shadows

Every four years, representatives from across the world come together at World Leish, the World Congress on Leishmaniais. Last week approximately 1,500 delegates from over 70 countries converged upon Toledo, Spain for the 6th iteration of this international conference, which focuses on an age-old disease that is still common in certain countries. According to the World Health Organization, leishmaniasis affects some of the poorest people on earth and is associated with malnutrition, population displacement, poor housing and a lack of financial resources. Against the backdrop of this beautiful historical city, updates on the progress and requirements still required to control the various presentations of this parasitic disease (actually many diseases caused by many parasites) were provided. The disease-centric nature of the conference provides a rare opportunity to hear the different “language” of lab scientists, social scientists, field workers, veterinarians, clinicians, students and policy makers from across the world come together in [...]

May 31st, 2017| |
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