Friday, March 4, 2011

Guinea Worm

The reason I wanted to briefly mention Guinea Worm at the end of today's lecture is that it looks like it will be a close race with Polio as to which disease is eliminated next. Both diseases are close to the verge of extinction, only found in 4 countries each and both had under 2,000 cases worldwide last year - down from a total that was once in the millions.

However what makes Guinea worm a very interesting case is that the main tool in eradication has not been vaccination (there is no vaccine) but has been breaking the life cycle of the parasites by both encouraging the use of clean drinking water and by preventing people from entering sources of drinking water with an active infection. Since there is no host other than man the disease can be eradicated if there are no infected people,

Guinea worm disease is set to become the second disease in human history, after smallpox, to be eradicated. It will be the first parasitic disease to be eradicated and the first disease to be eradicated without the use of a vaccine or medical treatment.

Much of the work in eradicating Guinea Worm has been funded by former President Jimmy Carter and the Carter Foundation. For over two decades the Carter Foundation have been slowly winning the war against Guinea worm.

Time magazine had a photo-essay on the effect of Guinea Worm on a Ghanaian village.

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