Elephantiasis fighter kicks off ‘07 UGA diseases lecture series

Elephantiasis fighter kicks off ‘07 UGA diseases lecture series

Athens, Ga. – Anyone who pored over encyclopedias as a child remembers nightmare images of people with limbs swollen like enormous tubers. What few recall, however, is that elephantiasis is an advanced form of a worm infection that causes a range of sickness in more than 100 million people worldwide. A hero in the battle against this infection, called lymphatic filariasis, kicks off the second annual “Global Diseases: Voices from the Vanguard” lecture series at the University of Georgia on Tuesday, Jan. 30 at 6 p.m. There will be four speakers in the series, which continues through April.

Eric Ottesen, an award-winning physician and scientist, has devoted his career to battling elephantiasis and less dramatic manifestations of lymphatic filariasis. His lecture, “Lymphatic Filariasis: Science, Intervention and Beyond,” will be held at the UGA Chapel and is free and open to the public.

About 40 million people worldwide are disabled by elephantiasis, which causes grotesque, disfiguring swellings of the legs, breasts and genitals. “The physical disability and paralleled social stigma that come with this horrible disease put these people in double jeopardy: they are both incapacitated and shunned by society,” said Dan Colley, director of UGA’s Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases. “Not being able to work and not being accepted by others, they stop participating in life. They are left to suffer and withdraw from society.”

Ottesen is director of the Lymphatic Filariasis Support Center and research professor in the Department of Global Health at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health. He is also a veteran of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Ottesen received his A.B. from Princeton University in 1965, his M.D. from Harvard Medical School in 1970 and is board certified by the American Board of Pediatrics. Before joining the Emory faculty, he headed the clinical parasitology section of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at NIH for nearly two decades, and then coordinated the World Health Organization’s war on filariasis for six years.

“Last year, all the Voices from the Vanguard lectures drew huge crowds, demonstrating that the UGA community wants to know more about infectious diseases that kill disproportionate numbers of poor people around the world,” noted Patricia Thomas, Knight Chair in Health and Medical Journalism at UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. “Again this year we’ve lined up internationally respected experts who not only care about alleviating misery and preventing unnecessary death, but who are in a position to do something about this.”

The “Global Diseases: Voices from the Vanguard” lecture series is a joint effort of the Knight Chair and Daniel G. Colley, director of UGA’s Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases. Three additional programs are planned for Feb. 20, March 26, and April 24. All lectures will be held at 6 p.m. in the UGA Chapel, followed by a reception next door at Demosthenian Hall. For additional information, visit www.grady.uga.edu/knighthealth

Funding for “Global Diseases: Voices from the Vanguard” is provided by the Grady College Knight Chair in Health & Medical Journalism, UGA’s Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases and the Office of the Provost.