Tag Archives: Research

Pan American Zoonotic Research and Prevention(PAZ) is looking for donations

Give to PAZ and Feel Warm All Winter Long, Literally.

  Posted on October 17, 2013 by PAZ

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Our COO is on her way to Lima.

Give $75 to PAZ before October 24 and we will send you a fashionable traditional Peruvian alpaca  wool hat.

Give $125 and we will send you two!

Click on the hat to donate through gofundme.comperuvian hat

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New Post at Pan American Zoonotic Research and Prevention (PAZ)



Click here if this isn’t patently idiotic to you→http://pazresearch.org/2013/09/13/stupid-funding-cutbacks/



Chagas’ Disease is NOT the new AIDS: Part I


It is a great picture of the bug, though. Why do biting arthropods always have their portraits taken while posing on human flesh?

Chagas’ Disease, while being a medical nightmare, is not the new AIDS.

  • The first, and perhaps biggest problem with this article is calling Chagas’ Disease the “new” anything. Chagas’ disease was discovered in 1909 by a brilliant Brazilian scientist, Carlos Chagas. Chagas’ discovery was justly recognized for this great discovery during his own lifetime.
  • Chagas’ disease is like AIDS, in that it targets certain populations, but that is where the similarity stops. Chagas’ disease is spread by a vector (bugs of the family Reduviidae) that is exquisitely evolved to infect the poor, as it is related to low-quality housing. AIDS does target the poor of the world more than the rich, but there are certain groups that AIDS targeted, or continues to target, that have nothing to do with economic standing. AIDS is not transmitted by arthropod vectors (though there was concern in the early years of the pandemic), but by sexual contact and contaminated transfusions and medical equipment. Chagas’ disease can be spread by transfusion, but this risk is decreasing. As of a few years ago,around two decades after the blood supply began being screened for HIV,  the blood supply in the US began being screened for Chagas’ disease.
  • Chagas’ disease is called a Neglected Tropical Disease. These are diseases that have high prevalence in the hotter regions of the globe, affect a large number of people but yet do not get a lot of attention from the press, their governments, NGOs, and even much of the local population. For example, many residents of Lima (where the power is) don’t even know what Chagas’ disease is, even though it afflicts a large number of Peruvians. Why?  It doesn’t occur in Lima, and public education about the disease does not extend to those who won’t get it, even though they may be the ones most able to help.
  • Stigma: Yes, it sucks to get AIDS or Chagas’ or both together. But tell me from your heart of hearts: Which would you rather tell your co-workers and parents–that you’ve contracted HIV or that you’ve contracted Chagas’. I’m betting on Chagas’. 30 years into the epidemic, and HIV/AIDS still carries a burden unmatched by any other disease.
  • Research funding: No comparison. HIV/AIDS has been a research juggernaut over much of the pandemic. As a result, we’ve made brilliant and amazing progress in treatment and prevention of the disease. Chagas’ disease is still treated by the same two lousy drugs that were used over a decade ago. Some research is being done on new treatments, but I you’d be embarrassed to see the shoestring some of those labs run on. Moreover, most of these studies involve using drugs that were already approved for other indications, such as anti-fungals and anti-malarials.(They ain’t much money to make sellin’ drugs to po’ folk in the developin’ world.)

    No mention of Chagas' disease here.

    No mention of Chagas’ disease here.

Augment Breasts or Fight Disease?

Child with “Romaña’s sign”, a swelling caused by the bite of an infected assassin bug

Why fund research when you can fund a rack?

TO:  Richard D Lerner, DVM, MPH

RE:  (name of proposal redacted)

Dear Dr. Lerner:

Thank you for your pre-proposal submission referenced above.  Morris Animal Foundation’s (MAF) Large Animal Scientific Advisory Board has reviewed it carefully, however, at this time MAF will not request a full proposal submission.

During these difficult economic times, MAF trustees have challenged us to reduce spending while continuing to fund excellent science and diverse animal health issues with the greatest relevance.  MAF received almost 140 pre-proposals for large animal research this year and funds are available to cover only a fraction of these.  As a result fewer full proposals will be reviewed.  MAF is, however, fervently committed to fund-raising so more high quality and high relevance health studies can be reviewed and approved in the future.

It is always difficult to advise a prospective investigator that a pre-proposal was declined.  We do not do it lightly.  Please keep in mind you are welcome to re-submit a declined pre-proposal, up to two times (three total submissions). Unfortunately, due to the high volume of pre-proposals received, we are not able to provide written evaluations to investigators at the pre-proposal stage.

Thank you again for submitting your pre-proposal and for your dedication to improving the lives of animals.


Tobie McPhail

Director-Scientific Programs and Advancement

Morris Animal Foundation

The begging for research dollars racket is so bad that one often has to write “pre-proposals”, that is, request permission to beg.

I guess it’s a good idea, in the sense that researchers don’t waste time writing proposals that haven’t a snowball’s chance in Lima of getting approved. Being a researcher means as much, if not more, about writing convincing proposals as it does of coming up with novel insights into pressing problems.

So, imagine my disappointment (I would rate it as moderate on the middle-age distress scale, mild being the annoyance one has at losing yet another pair of glasses and severe is hearing bad news about the health of a friend or relative, or trying, as I did tonight, to see if I could watch Hannity for more than 10 minutes) at learning that yet another idea would either have to be tabled or wait for another day.

Now compound that disappointment with this:

This is actually a front funding malaria research

That’s right, while me and 140 others were asking to merely have the opportunity to have our proposals rejected, other generous men were donating their hard-earned (or easily inherited) lucre so that some anonymous chick they will never meet can have a bigger pair of kazongas.

And the website takes a cool 20%.

Thank you, RW, JD, for getting me back to this.

The Great Researchers, part 2: How to do research, and Thing One

First, find a disease that no one has been able to claim yet.

I am looking to carve out my own niche, because investigators are kind of like Spanish explorers–they arrive at a piece of territory and declare it theirs. The irony of this occurring in South America–a land conquered by conquistadores–is poignantly humorous, or humorously poignant, or just plain twisted, but what do I know?  I’m a late arrival (but not successful enough to be an arriviste–yet) in this part of the New World.

Thing One–and Thing Two–are researchers.

But I don’t think they ever smiled this much.
Anyway, first day in country.
I have never met Thing 1, or Thing 2 for that matter. Rumor has it that they are the experts on said disease in said country.
Should be great to work with them, no?
I go to breakfast. And, look! There is Thing One, drinking her coffee and reading a book.
I sit down. Good morning.
Good morning, says Thing One. She doesn’t look up.
I try to make some conversation.
Thing One says nothing.
Not uh-huh, not yes.
Thing One does not even nod her head.
I have never met Thing One before, but we are supposed to communicate about this project. However, Thing One seems intent on proving that, at least in her mind, I don’t exist, or at least  merit less attention than, well, insert your own simile.
I wonder if Thing One isn’t having a bad day.
I find out later I must have caught her in what must be–at a minimum–a bad decade.
Stay tuned for more exciting adventures, at least until Dr. Seuss’s estate makes me edit this post.

The Great Researchers: Part 1

Bookstore? Veterinary Clinic?

What’s  it like to work with those Great Investigators?

Beats the hell out of me–I never really worked with them. Not that that´s a problem–from the small number of them whom I did meet, I was, well, res ipsa loquitor.

The Beginning

It was my first visit to the country of S, before I had my Masters in Public Health. I was going to work on a project involving a certain disease, known locally as Eeeeeee , prevalent in the Ccccccc area. I had a training a grant a professor had helped me obtain, and I studied up on what I thought I would be doing while I left my family for seven weeks (not a popular decicision) and went to work with people I didn´t know, in a country I had never visited, with an understanding of a language that on a good day could be described as rudimentary. You have to understand that other than leaving my family, all of the aforementioned I considered good things. New country? New knowledge? New people? What a change from the rut of the routine that I had worried would characterize the rest of my professional life, which, given how young my kids are and how much university education is going to cost, appeared (and still appears) to be a long, long time.

The  Professor and I had discussed what I was going to do. I was going to examine the role of domestic animals in the movement of disease and its vectors. I was to work with an  biostatistician who had published a lot of papers on  the epidemiology of the disease and was head of the project down there. There was also a  scientist from ?/?, who had very clear ideas of the way pretty much everything in the world should work. She also holds the distinction of being one of the top five rudest people I’ve ever met in my life.

First Lesson Learned?

In retrospect, I should have gone to meet these people before I went down there. Or maybe it should have been explained more clearly what sort of control they were to have over what I was doing. I was a neophyte in these manners. I had spent the last 15 or so years treating animals for the diseases and conditions that they had. I had only finished my coursework for my MPH a couple of months before. I have to admit to not knowing exactly how these things worked. But I had–and still have–enormous trust in both the knowledge and intentions of the  Professor.

Part 2 coming soon….