Campus News

Visiting Nobel laureate will talk about pandemics, birds

Peter C. Doherty

Nobel laureate Peter C. Doherty will discuss his two latest books Sept. 10 at 3 p.m. A book sale and signing will coincide with the event, which will be held in Room H237 of the College of Veterinary Medicine’s main academic building. The event is free and open to the public; seating is limited.

Doherty’s two latest titles—Pandemics: What Everyone Needs to Know and Their Fate is Our Fate: How Birds Foretell Threats to Our Health and Our World—will be available for purchase. The books will be released in late August and September, respectively.

In 1996, Doherty and fellow researcher Dr. Rolf M. Zinkernagel received the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for their discovery of how the body’s immune system recognizes infected cells. Their research was conducted from 1973-75 at the John Curtin School of Medical Research in Canberra, Australia.

In his first new book, Pandemics: What Everyone Needs to Know, Doherty explains the causes of pandemics, how they can be counteracted with vaccines and drugs and how to better prepare for them.

Doherty notes the term “pandemic” refers not to a disease’s severity but to its ability to spread rapidly over a wide geographical area. Extremely lethal pathogens usually are identified and confined quickly. However, the rise of high-speed transportation networks and the globalization of trade and travel radically have accelerated the spread of diseases. Pandemics can be fought effectively, Doherty said. Often simple health practices, especially in hospitals, can help enormously. Research into the animal reservoirs of pathogens, from SARS in bats to HIV in chimpanzees, shows promise for prevention efforts.

In Their Fate is Our Fate: How Birds Foretell Threats to Our Health and Our World, Doherty uses personal stories and colorful examples to illustrate how birds are vital to scientific research. By studying birds, researchers can further understand the nature of human diseases such as cancer, malaria and influenza and develop new vaccines and cures. By endangering the lives of birds through human activities, Doherty said, humans ultimately present a threat to their own well-being.