Research

In New Book, Dr. Peter J. Hotez Argues Most Neglected Tropical Diseases Can Be Found in World’s Wealthiest Countries


By Maggie Galehouse | September 6, 2016

Dr. Peter J. Hotez became the voice of the Zika virus some 18 months ago, in part because of his prescience.

“I was one of the first to predict, in 2014, that Zika was coming to the western hemisphere,” said Hotez, M.D., Ph.D., and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. “Then, at the end of 2015, I wrote that Zika was headed to Florida, to the Gulf Coast.”

His New York Times op-ed piece in April 2016, titled “Zika is coming,” drew national attention, as did his interview with National Public Radio in early August.

“I have been pretty much predicting everything Zika is going to do,” said Hotez, 58. “I’ve been ahead of the curve every step of the way.”

But the Zika virus, which can lead to microcephaly in babies, is only one
of his specialties.

BlueMarble

Hotez, a professor of pediatrics, molecular virology and microbiology at Baylor and president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, has been studying neglected tropical diseases for several years. Zika is just one of many threats he describes in Blue Marble Health, his new book that outlines a new global health paradigm.

The traditional understanding of global health, which compares unique diseases in less developed countries with more developed countries, is outdated, Hotez says. Today, he argues, most of the world’s neglected diseases can be found in vast pockets of poverty inside the world’s wealthiest economies.

And these poor enclaves are close to home, close to the Texas Medical Center.

Hotez moved to Houston in 2011 to launch the National School of Tropical Medicine. He had been exposed to poverty when he lived in Washington, D.C. and during his travels abroad, but after driving around some of Houston’s Fifth Ward neighborhoods, he had a revelation.

“The poverty I saw was a real eye opener for me,” Hotez said. “It had a huge impact on my research. I was driving through these places and saying ‘You know, this reminds me of Tegucigalpa. This reminds me of Guatemala City. This reminds me of Recife in northeastern Brazil.’”

He and his team found neglected tropical diseases amid poor populations in Texas and elsewhere, among them parasitic infections including Chagras disease, cysticercosis and trichomoniasis.

In Blue Marble Health, Hotez says neglected diseases need help from the leaders of the G20 countries—the 20 major economies, including the U.S. and the European Union—who meet to discuss key issues in the global economy.

“Leaders of the G20 countries need to redouble their commitment to their own neglected population, which in the U.S. includes 12 million Americans who live with neglected tropical diseases,” Hotez said.

Hotez calls for new vaccines, new drugs, and new diagnostics for Zika and other diseases. He hopes his book will reach everyone from university under- graduates to political leaders.

“I want this to become a book that can actually influence public policy,” he said.

Hotez’s involvement with the Clinton Global Initiative, which enlists global leaders to find solutions to world problems, led to friendships with politicians and celebrities.

The foreword to Blue Marble Health was written by Cher, the singer, actress and activist.

“Yeah, I know Cher,” Hotez said. “I got connected with her a few years ago because she got interested in the whole problem of neglected tropical diseases, and I spent a day at her wonderful Malibu mansion tutoring her. She’s very committed. Very opinionated about her political causes. Very much a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat. She started a school in Africa and very much wants to do good in the world.”

Connecting with the public is another one of Hotez’s specialties.

“I’m an interesting scientist in that I have an M.D., a Ph.D., I keep up with the grants and the papers, but I also have another side of me which is public engagement,” he explained. “And that’s a little unusual. I write a lot for the pub- lic. I enjoy interacting with a general audience, either speaking to them or going on radio or TV. This is one of the problems with training young scien- tists today. We discourage them from doing public engagement. It’s seen either as a waste of time or, even worse, it’s seen as a form of grandstand- ing or self-promotion.”

Research!America, a policy organization, published a survey in 2013 that found that 70 percent of Americans cannot name a living scientist, Hotez said. Another survey by the same organization found that 59 percent of Americans could not name any institutions where medical and health research were conducted; even more galling, none of the top institutions named by the other 41 percent were part of the Texas Medical Center.

“And I say that’s our fault,” Hotez said. “You have to get out there. You have to shape a brand.”

Blue Marble Health

By Peter J. Hotez, M.D., Ph.D.

Johns Hopkins University Press.

224 pps.,  $28.95 paperback; also available as an ebook.




Social Posts

profile_image

UTHealth

@UTHealth

RT @harrishealth: George V. Masi talks to media about the 20th Trauma Survivors Celebration hosted to recognize patients treated at #BenTau…

2 hours ago
profile_image

Harris Health System

@harrishealth

George V. Masi talks to media about the 20th Trauma Survivors Celebration hosted to recognize patients treated at #BenTaubHospital & #LBJHospital trauma centers with partners from @bcmhouston @UTHealth @HoustonFire #TraumaLeader https://t.co/f0jj01yDjr

3 hours ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

Page County VA receives 2019 Ford Flex for Veteran transportation https://t.co/Uje88HYVi8 via @KMABroadcasting

4 hours ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

David Jaffray, Ph.D., from @UHN to join MD Anderson as Chief Technology and Digital Officer late this summer: https://t.co/2y4TNnS1Oj. #endcancer

5 hours ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

“As a parent, I strive to do what I can to protect my children and their friends from ever facing a cancer diagnosis,” says former convenience store owner Sam Susser.Here’s why he’s proud to see Texas raise the age for tobacco sale to 21: https://t.co/FVGuiVJXAH #endcancer

6 hours ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

Event gives Veterans 'an opportunity' to teach https://t.co/rLFnvZxmF7 via @AmericanLegion

6 hours ago
profile_image

UTHealth

@UTHealth

After more than 47 years of extraordinary service to UTHealth, George M. Stancel, PhD, has announced his retirement. #ThankYouDrStancel for your contributions, your impact, and your commitment to UTHealth. https://t.co/zz7biEVQaC #ManyFacesOfUTHealth https://t.co/m5IwXP2WmZ

6 hours ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

The numbers of Americans with health consequences from obesity continues to grow. See how we as a medical school are teaching our students to help prevent and treat this disease. https://t.co/Gl4Um007LB #obesity

7 hours ago
profile_image

Houston Methodist

@MethodistHosp

@MrJeremyJackson @PasadenaHigh @AthleticsPISD @CathySupak Thanks for sharing

7 hours ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

A phase III trial led by our @DQBMD found combining busulfan with melphalan may be effective as conditioning newly diagnosed #multiplemyeloma patients receiving an autologous #stemcelltransplant: https://t.co/pliwgCBYxb @CancerNetwrk #MMSM #endcancer

8 hours ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

Today we honor Army Veteran Jason Swindle in remembrance of his service and sacrifice for our country https://t.co/EgIX7LRw5X #VeteranOfTheDay #CarryTheLoad #NoVeteranEverDies

8 hours ago
profile_image

UTHealth

@UTHealth

Amar Yousif, MBA, named new VP of Information Technology, Chief Information Officer at @UTHealth: https://t.co/dtNUDXzoei https://t.co/wfbuWKLW3l

9 hours ago
profile_image

Texas Children's

@TexasChildrens

Several nurses at @TexasChildrens recently received their Doctor of Nursing Practice. Join us in congratulating them on this incredible achievement! To learn more, visit: https://t.co/2kSDVJ834B #texaschildrens

9 hours ago
profile_image

Rice University

@RiceUniversity

RT @Rice_BIOE: Rice bioengineer Jeff Tabor (@LabTabor) reflects on accessing nature's treasure trove of biosensors in a new "Nature" blog p…

10 hours ago
profile_image

Texas Children's

@TexasChildrens

Dr. Julie Kaplow, chief of psychology and director of the Trauma and Grief Center at Texas Children's Hospital, discusses the importance of mental health support in public schools:https://t.co/cF2CZMfBdF #texaschildrens

10 hours ago