Cystic Echinococcosis Is Focus of 2017 Neva Memorial Lecture
Dr. Thomas Junghanss, a tropical medicine and infectious disease physician and chair of the World Health Organization working group on echinococcosis, will present the annual Franklin A. Neva Memorial Lecture on May 25 at 10 a.m. in Lipsett Amphitheater, Bldg. 10. His talk is titled “Cystic Echinococcosis—Staging Matters.” Cystic echinococcosis is a parasitic type of tapeworm infection.
Junghanss heads the clinical tropical medicine unit at Heidelberg University Hospital in Germany. He works in a broad range of settings at the hospital and in countries with limited resources.
In 2016, he received the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany for his contributions to tropical medicine in sub-Saharan Africa.
Junghanss was initially trained in marine geology with a focus on reef development, which gave him a deeper understanding of ecology. His work has also been informed by his fascination with the philosophical undercurrents of the 20th century and the Anthropocene—the era of man’s influence on Earth ecology.
He has a special interest in neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), which affect more than 1 billion people in 149 countries, costing developing economies billions of dollars every year, according to the WHO. Cystic echinococcosis (CE), a parasitic NTD most prevalent in sheep-raising regions of the world, is caused by larval-stage tapeworms (Echinococcus granulosus) found in dogs, the primary host. Ungulates are intermediate hosts. Humans become infected accidentally by consuming food, water or soil contaminated with infected dog feces.
Disease is caused by cysts that grow slowly and quietly over many years, mainly in the liver and lungs, but also in other organs. The cysts can cause discomfort and symptoms or be detected by chance. Treatment of advanced disease is demanding: health services are regularly overextended in countries with limited resources where most CE patients live. Immigrants to non-endemic countries often face health care institutions unfamiliar with CE.
CE imaging has been a breakthrough in helping to guide treatment decisions. Most clinicians agree on four treatment options: drugs, skin treatments, surgery and “watch and wait.” The WHO working group on echinococcosis advocates for improved care and evidence-based treatment, hoping to move echinococcosis into mainstream clinical medicine.
Junghanss reviews best practices for diagnosing and treating CE and hopes to close knowledge gaps to provide better care for patients suffering from one of the most neglected tropical diseases.
The lecture series honors Neva, a noted virologist, parasitologist, clinician and former chief of the NIAID Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases. He helped grow parasitology research at NIH from a narrow area of focus to a large program now spread among 4 NIAID research groups and involving about 400 scientific staff at laboratories in Bethesda and abroad. Neva died in 2011 at age 89.