Infectious Insights Blog

Hurricane Harvey Highlights Need for Vaccines

When a natural disaster – like Hurricane Harvey – hits, one of the immediate effects is often flooding. As waters rise, people and animals are in danger and become displaced. With the onslaught of rain during Harvey, contact with water is unavoidable. However, it’s the aftermath of the disaster that often poses a massive threat in the form of a host of infectious diseases – and also highlights the great need for continued vaccine development to protect or treat disease. The lack of safe water and sanitation facilities, coupled with the close proximity of people crowded into shelters, proves to be a breeding ground for disease outbreaks. If drinking water becomes contaminated after a disaster, it raises the likelihood of outbreaks of diarrheal diseases, cholera, Hepatitis A and typhoid fever. Crowded conditions also make it easier for infectious diseases – especially those that are airborne -- to move rapidly from [...]

August 31st, 2017|

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| |
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