This Week's Links: What We Talk About When We Talk About Disease Eradication

By Emily Lewis

Here at the RWI we talk about disease eradication all the time, but that's partly because there aren't a lot of other institutes keeping the conversation going. The idea of global elimination when it comes to infectious disease is fairly new, and one that's only just beginning to catch-on. 

"For most of human history, we have sought to treat and cure diseases. But only in recent decades did it become possible to ensure that a particular disease never threatens humanity again." This great little TED-Ed video tells the story of the eradication of smallpox and how that story can be used to determine the possibility of eradicating other diseases. 

The Drovers Cattle Network has come up with a similar "road map" for disease eradication among animal populations. As we mentioned in our last links blog, "After smallpox, rinderpest is just the second disease—and the first livestock disease—to be eradicated." Which means we have another important piece in the puzzle.

One of the things the Rinderpest article highlights is that it was not researchers or doctors (in this case, veterinarians) who played the key role. For disease eradication to be successful it has to be joint effort between medical professionals and "laymen." As the TED video put it, "Disease eradication is one public health effort that benefits all of humanity and challenges us to work together as a global community."

"Finding a way to manage a group of people who are all quite individualistic and having them work together towards this common goal is critical," says Scott O'Neill, founder of Eliminate Dengue in a fascinating podcast series from NPR that tells the in-depth story of trying to cut off one disease (dengue fever) at its source.

Scott O'Neill wants to rid the world of dengue fever by infecting mosquitoes with bacteria so they can't carry the virus that causes the disease.

Scott O'Neill wants to rid the world of dengue fever by infecting mosquitoes with bacteria so they can't carry the virus that causes the disease.

The message is clear: if the total elimination of infectious disease is possible, it will only be so if we work together. Let's make this happen. To again quote the TED video, "Disease eradication is the ultimate gift we can give to everyone alive today as well as all future generations of humanity."

Emily Lewis is the RWI's Content Curator and Social Media Manager.

Posted on April 17, 2015 and filed under Blog, Third 30.