Inaugural infectious disease conference brings global health leaders to St. Louis

HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases still kill millions worldwide each year.

On April 12, leading infectious diseases researchers from around the globe and those here at Washington University will gather on the medical school campus for a conference that highlights new developments and ongoing challenges in the field. The theme of this year’s conference is tropical and geographical diseases.

The forum, at the Eric P. Newman Education Center, is open to the university community and the public. There is no charge to attend, but advance online registration is encouraged. Those who want to attend the lunch and reception should register by April 1.

The conference is the inaugural event of the newly created Center for Global Health and Infectious Diseases at Washington University School of Medicine. The center provides an ideal setting for faculty and students to collaborate on initiatives aimed at reducing the burden of infectious diseases.

“While infections are not the major killer they once were in the United States and other developed countries, that isn’t true in many parts of the world,” says HIV/AIDS researcher William Powderly, MD, the J. William Campbell Professor of Medicine and director of the new center. “These diseases both kill and cause significant health problems for millions of people worldwide.”

Among the presenters are:

• David Kaslow, MD, who is leading an effort, funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to develop a malaria vaccine. Kaslow directs the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, based in Washington, D.C.

• Thomas Quinn, MD, who leads the Johns Hopkins Center for Global Health and has been involved in HIV clinical research in 29 countries, with current projects in Uganda, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, India, China and Thailand.

• David Molyneux, PhD, senior fellow and emeritus professor in The Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, who has devoted his career to research into neglected tropical diseases that cause premature death and have major social and economic consequences for people left disabled by their illnesses.

• Gary Weil, MD, at Washington University, whose research centers on parasitic worm infections, including lymphatic filariasis. The devastating illness, spread by infected mosquitoes, afflicts tens of millions in poor tropical countries. It is also known as elephantiasis because people who have it often develop immensely swollen legs.

Weil is one of a growing community of Washington University investigators focused on infectious diseases and global health problems.

Other university presenters at the conference include Jeffrey Gordon, MD, whose research to understand the community of microbes in the gut may one day lead to innovative ways to treat malnutrition; David Wang, PhD, who is working to identify novel viruses and understand their role in respiratory and diarrheal illnesses; and Shanti Parikh, PhD, an anthropologist whose work in East Africa seeks to understand how gender and inequality factor into the social consequences of interventions to reduce HIV/AIDS.

“The conference is a terrific opportunity for faculty and students to get plugged into some truly outstanding research,” Powderly says. “By working together, we can make great progress against so many devastating health problems on a global scale.”

The conference is co-sponsored by the departments of Medicine, Molecular Microbiology and Pathology and Immunology and the university’s Institute for Public Health.

On-site registration for the conference begins at 8 a.m. April 12, with opening remarks slated for 8:30 a.m. For more information or to see the full program, go to the conference website or email Jacaranda van Rheenen, PhD, project manager of the Global Health and Infectious Diseases Center, at