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Thursday, 07 December 2017 19:35

Neglected Tropical Diseases and Vaccine Advocacy with Peter Hotez - MTM 71

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Peter Hotez talks about neglected tropical diseases: what are they, where are they found, and where did the term “neglected tropical disease” come from, anyway? Hotez discusses some of the strategies his and other groups are using for vaccine development, and his work as an advocate for childhood vaccines and global health.

Host: Julie Wolf Peter Hotez

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Julie's biggest takeaways:

  • Renaming “other diseases” - a large collection of disparate diseases such as schistosomiasis, leishmaniasis, and onchocerciasis (also called river blindness) - as “neglected tropical diseases” by Hotez and colleagues was integral to bringing attention to the diseases of the bottom billion, people that live on less than one U.S. Dollar per day.

  • Neglected tropical diseases are often chronic and debilitating without high mortality. These diseases trap people in poverty due to their long-term effects. The NTDs are often associated with terrible stigma that can lead to additional challenges for affected populations.

  • Neglected tropical diseases are found worldwide, in rich and poor countries. The poorest peoples living in the G20 countries (and Nigeria) now account for most of the world’s NTDs.

  • Parasitic infections present challenges for vaccine design, but reverse vaccinology may be a useful strategy. Reverse vaccinology mines genomes to identify promising vaccine candidates in silico, which are then narrowed sequentially for those that are expressed on the bacterial surface, immunogenic, and ultimately protective against disease. This strategy has worked for Neisseria meningitidis, and Hotez is hopeful that it will produce effective vaccines for the parasitic infections he studies.

  • The tradition of individual fields and departments, combined with the old-fashioned notion that scientists needn’t spend their time engaging with the public, has led to flatlined budgets and the rise of anti-science movements. Scientists need to engage the public to ensure the future of science and science-based policy.


Featured Quotes (in order of appearance):

“The concept of ‘neglected tropical diseases’ was very much born out of the Millennium Development Goals launched in the year 2000.”

“Treating NTDs in rich countries “is not a resource problem; it’s an awareness problem.”


“If you want to enter global health, we need as many people with a scientific background to go into business and law and international relations as we need to go into traditional scientific pathways”

“Many involved in the antivaccine movement disproportionately involve either parents who are affluent or educated, or both: those who know just enough to do a google search but without the background to separate the garbage from the important stuff. And of course the anti-vaccine groups are deliberately misleading.”

“Research America found that 81% of Americans can’t name a living scientist. That’s our fault. We’re so inward looking that we aren’t taking the time to do public engagement.”

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Last modified on Wednesday, 31 January 2018 16:31
Julie Wolf

Julie Wolf is the ASM Science Communications Specialist. She contributes to the ASM social media and blog network and hosts the Meet the Microbiologist podcast. She also runs workshops at ASM conferences to help scientists improve their own communication skills. Follow Julie on Twitter for more ASM and microbiology highlights at @JulieMarieWolf.

Julie earned her Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota, focusing on medical mycology and infectious disease. Outside of her work at ASM, she maintains a strong commitment to scientific education and teaches molecular biology at the community biolab, Genspace. She lives in beautiful New York City.