A Book Not To Neglect


I had the opportunity to see Dr. Peter Hotez speak when I was an infectious disease fellow about 6 years ago. What initially sparked my curiousity about this innovative physician was that one of my mentors at the time, Dr. Tara O'Toole, who was soon to become the Department of Homeland Security's Undersecretary for Science and Technology, had spoken very highly of him. At the time I was immersed in understanding the concepts biodefense and wondering in what way this hookworm maven would impact my understanding of biodefense and national security.  

Needless to say Dr. O'Toole was right (as usual) about Dr. Hotez and I learned quite a lot from his lecture. 

I recently got the chance to read his book Forgotten People, Forgotten Diseases: the Neglected Tropical Diseases and their Impact on Global Development. The book is devoted to detailing the main historical, clinical, and epidemiological features of the major NTDs--a cast of characters that includes hookworm, ascariasis, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis and others. His discussion of toxocariasis in the US is especially fascinating.

The main strength of this book is not just that Dr. Hotez provides subject matter expertise, he leverages that expertise to integrate the knowledge of these diseases with what he knows about the locales in which these diseases are endemic. What Dr. Hotez argues, quite effectively, is that these diseases represent major barriers to economic development. In effect, individuals afflicted with these disease die earlier and/or are less productive. When entire regions are infected, the effects are magnified. 

Importantly, Dr. Hotez highlights the fact that such diseases are often coincident with civil wars and  factional fighting--something I think is instrumental in why these diseases persist (something I plan to write more on).

There's much more to say about this book and I recommend it.