ASTMH 64th Annual Meeting

October 25-29, 2015

Stanford CIGH is on the scene at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) 64th Annual Meeting taking place this week in Philadelphia. The premier forum for the exchange of scientific advances in tropical medicine and global health, this year's ASTMH conference brings together nearly 4,200 attendees from over 75 countries dedicated to reducing the burden of tropical infectious diseases and improving health for all. Several Stanford students, researchers and faculty are onsite representing more than 25 abstracts. Stay tuned for updates or follow #TropMed15 on Twitter for live tweets from the meeting floor.

Previous Posts

Conference highlights from ASTMH past president Michele Barry

October 30, 2015

As the 2015 ASTMH conference wrapped up in Philadelphia, I spoke with our CIGH Director, Michele Barry, MD, FACP, about what she felt were some of the highlights of the meeting. As a past president of ASTMH, Barry shares how she's seen the meeting grow and evolve over the years.


"I think what’s so wonderful about the society is how diverse it is...It’s really the go to tropical medicine meeting, also for our overseas members. A quarter of our membership is now from overseas. It makes it a very vibrant and exciting meeting."

New framework unveiled for expanding treatment guidelines for parasitic worm diseases

October 30, 2015

A new health economics study presented by Stanford medical student Nathan Lo shows historical World Health Organization guidelines for the two most common parasitic worm diseases are far too restrictive and provides a framework for the necessary expansion of global treatment programs. Together, these diseaeses - schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiasis - infect some 1.5 billion people in the developing world and can cause severe discomfort and even death.

Under current guidelines, treatment is focused only on school-aged children living in high prevalence areas. However, Lo and a team of researchers led by Jason Andrews, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Stanford, have outlined a new framework for determining the optimal treatment strategy - who to treat, how often, and with what medicines - based on economic modeling. The findings show that expanding mass drug administration (MDA) to entire communities with much lower disease prevalence would not only be cost-effective, but would result in improved quality of life, reduce re-infection rates and lower disease intensity. If adopted, this would result in a fivefold increase in the number of people who would receive treatment in sub-Saharan Africa alone.

I had a chance to speak with Lo after his presentation yesterday - hear more below.

Research from the LaBeaud lab

October 29, 2015

Desiree LaBeaud, MD, is a Stanford pediatrician and infectious disease researcher who has dedicated her efforts to better understanding the risk factors and long-term health consequences of arboviral infections, including Rift Valley fever, chikungunya, and dengue viruses. In the video interview below, LaBeaud shares some of the research highlights from her work and that of her collaborators in her lab and in Kenya that was presented at the ASTMH meeting.

Some people tend to think of these mosquito-borne illnesses as problems that don't have a direct impact on countries in the developing world. However, LaBeaud reminds us that this is not the case. Her research on the 2013-2014 chikungunya virus as described in a previous post is evidence that these viruses are speading. Just earlier this year, cases of chikungunya virus were reported in the state of Florida. Also this year, the aedis aegypti species of mosquito, which can spread diseases like dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever, was detected in San Mateo County. Considering that some nine million Americans visit the Caribbean each year, it could just be a matter of time before these diseases appear in our local communities, said LaBeaud. The risk for transmission increases in wet climates and rainy seasons, so with this year's El Niño predicted to rank among the strongest on record, it could pose an added threat to those in California.


A look inside the Ebola Treatment Unit

October 28, 2015

Take a look inside the replica Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) at ASTMH where conference attendees had the opportunity to speak with doctors who were on the front lines in West Africa and see first hand what its like to suit up in a protective suit.

Visit the ASTMH 2015 Tumblr blog for a full story on attendees' experience and lessons learned.  

This short video with Michael Roposh of Partners in Health describes the many functions of the personal protective equipment worn by Ebola fighters.


Investigating the first outbreak of chikungunya virus in the Americas

October 28, 2015

Congratulations to Claire Heath on being awarded the ASTMH Robert E. Shope International Fellowship in Infectious Diseases. Established in honor of Robert E. Shope, MD, one of the world’s most foremost authorities on inset-borne viruses, the fellowship provides support for international training opportunities in arbovirolgy and emerging diseases for postdoctoral researchers.

Following the ASTMH meeting, Heath, an infectious disease research fellow in the LaBeaud lab at Stanford University, will be heading straight for the Caribbean islands of Grenada to begin her fellowship year. Grenada was severely affected by a massive chikungunya virus outbreak in 2013-2014, marking the debut of the virus in the Americas. While the mosquito-borne chikungunya virus was first discovered in the 1950s, not much is known about the long-term health consequences following infection.

Heath’s research will build on an earlier study led by Desiree LaBeaud, MD, associate professor of pediatrics, which aimed to confirm transmission and associated symptoms of chikungunya in Grenada following the outbreak. The findings of this study, based on results from 493 patients, presented in a poster today at ASTMH, confirmed the presence of chikungunya virus in Granada for the first time and found that symptoms of fever, rash, joint swelling, join pain and chills were commonly associated with the disease. In the next phase of this research, Heath will conduct follow-up on these patients in an effort to better understand the long-term health impact.

Tune in for an interview with Heath below.

Water + environment + hygiene = health

October 26, 2015

Highlights from the afternoon included a poster session featuring research from several Stanford faculty members, researchers and students. Check out the photo gallery below to get a closer look at some of the posters presented.

Additionally, in afternoon session focused on Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Environmental Health, Stanford’s Amy Pickering, PhD, presented results on the usage of Lifestraw water filters in rural Kenyan households. The findings are consistent with other studies showing poor adoption of household water treatment interventions provided programmatically, like the Lifestraw filters, but that water quality did improve in a small subset of the population when used. Pickering is a research associate with Stanford's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

The session also included a number of presentations from researchers at the International Center for Diarrheaol Disease Research in Bangladesh conducted in collaboration with several U.S. institutions (including Stanford University), looking at topics related to the contamination of complementary foods, as well as attitudes and behaviors related to handwashing in Bangladesh.

Photo Gallery

Virology: Other Viruses session co-chairs Elysse Grossi-Soyster, research associate at Stanford, and Axel Lehrer, University of Hawaii.

Louise Lu, first year medical student at Yale University School of Medicine and '15 Stanford University graduate, at the podium at ASTMH 2015.

Arboviruses, parasites, bacteria, oh my!

October 26, 2015

Today marked the first full day of ASTMH 2015, featuring scientific presentations from several Stanford researchers. Starting off the morning, Upinder Singh, associate professor of medicine and of microbiology and immunology at Stanford Medicine, gave a presentation on epigenetic regulation and entamoeba virulence during a symposium of the American Committee of Molecular, Cellular and Immunoparasitology.

In another morning session, Stanford researcher Elysse Grossi-Soyster, PhD, co-chaired a session titled, Virology and Other Diseases, which featured presentations from researchers looking at the interactions of various antibodies with the Ebola virus and others working on vaccine development. Offering a brief departure from the Ebola discussion, Grossi-Soyster presented results from a study comparing seroprevalence of Rift Valley Fever Virus among community members and slaughterhouse workers in Western Kenya. Tune into the video interview with Grossi-Soyster below to hear more!

Louise Lu, a first year medical student at Yale University and recent Stanford University graduate, presented findings from a cluster-randomized controlled trial evaluating the benefit of deworming schoolchildren in rural China.

She, along with Stanford colleagues at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI), Scott Rozelle, PhD, and Alexis Medina, aimed to examine the impact of deworming beyond  treating the disease itself, like cognitive abilities and school performance. Results from the trial, which included more than 2,000 children in China, found that while treating children for Ascaris lumbriocoides, one of the most common parasitic worms, was effective in reducing the infection, it did not have an significant impact on measured outcomes of nutritional indicators, cognitive abilities or school performance. Watch the video interview with Lu below for the inside scoop.

Sheri Fink, recipient of the ASTMH Communications Award, and Michele Barry, who presented the award at ASTMH.

Ebola remains on tops of minds and close to hearts at ASTMH 2015

October 26, 2015

The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) 64th Annual Meeting kicked off last night with an opening keynote address from Dr. Rajiv Shah, former head of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). In his address, Shah reflected on lessons learned from Ebola, one of the focal points of this year’s meeting. (Read a full story of his talk on the ASTMH Tumblr blog.)

The meeting falls just over a year since the peak of the outbreak in West Africa, but Ebola remains top of mind especially as new scientific questions continue to arise. And now, in this last mile to zero, the ASTMH meeting provides a forum to share new research, speak with individuals who were on the front lines and commemorate our fallen heroes. Attendees will also have the opportunity to walk through a replica Ebola Treatment Unit in an attempt to better understand the immense challenges faced by healthcare workers on the scene.

Though there has been much discussion about the “media frenzy” surrounding the Ebola outbreak, real-time coverage from trusted sources helped to bring some of the larger global health issues in into the international spotlight.

This year’s ASTMH Communications Award, which recognizes excelling in tropical medicine storytelling through the written word, was given to Sheri Fink and her team of reporters at the New York Times for their excellence in covering Ebola. Their piece, “How Ebola Roared Back” published in December 2014, details what went wrong in the early response efforts and how the outbreak quickly got out of control. Dean Michele Barry, Director of the Center for Innovation in Global in Global Health, presented the award during the opening session.

Stay tuned for more to come from Stanford researchers at the ASTMH meeting.  

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Communications & Media Contact

Rachel Leslie, CIGH Communicatons Officer, 412-477-5388