The National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine recently decided to engage in a new initiative to combat tropical diseases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified five priority infections, which are considered neglected, for public health action. Dr. Peter Hotez, who announced the new program, revealed a high level of concern about poor regions in the southern United States and the degraded urban areas of major U.S. cities.
“We’re at the confluence of poverty and a subtropical climate — two of the major factors that promote these infections, which in reality are major health disparities in the United States. Unfortunately these diseases have been overshadowed by better known infections, even though parasitic infections are much more common. I truly welcome CDC’s renewed commitment to control and prevent them,” said Dr. Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine.
The diseases that the researchers find to be most neglected and in need of intervention are Chagas disease, cysticercosis, toxocariasis, toxoplasmosis and trichmoniasis. Although they disproportionately affect the U.S. and Americans, Hotez’ research concludes the diseases are common throughout the world and are a primary cause of poverty. These diseases can provoke serious illness, including heart failure, pregnancy complications, seizures, and even death.
This program aims to address and treat cases of these target diseases and will offer healthcare professionals training and clinical experience in preparation through a diploma course in Tropical Medicine. The school will work in partnership with Sabin Vaccine Institute and Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development.
Researchers will work together to develop vaccinations to prevent or treat the five diseases. The first step has already begun, with patients from the Houston area already being seen and treated. People who plan to travel to regions where Neglected Tropical Diseases are prevalent can get help with vaccinations and medications.
The announcement was made at the same time that a series of articles was published that includes an opening editorial, of which Hotez is a co-author, in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygine. Along with Dr. Monica E. Parise and Dr. Laurence Slutsker, Dr. Hotez has written about the consequences of debilitating infectious diseases.
The National School of Tropical Medicine began work in 2011 and continues to focus on education, research, and clinical care. Prior to the establishment of the school, Dr. Hotez worked extensively in the field of Neglected Tropical Diseases. Besides being the founding dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine, he is the chief of the new section of tropical medicine in the BCM Department of Pediatrics, and also holds the Texas Children’s Hospital Endowed Chair of Tropical Pediatrics.