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Kapikian To Give Kinyoun Lecture, Nov. 16 in Lipsett

By Karen Leighty

Let's face it, diarrhea is not a popular topic of conversation. That might be why it is not generally known that most diarrhea cases are caused by a microbe called rotavirus, and that severe diarrhea in infants can be life threatening. In developing countries, rotavirus is responsible for more than 870,000 deaths each year.

In the Kinyoun Lecture on Tuesday, Nov. 16, Dr. Albert Z. Kapikian, head of the epidemiology section of NIAID's Laboratory of Infectious Diseases, will present his talk "Development of a Rotavirus Vaccine for the Prevention of Severe Diarrhea in Infants and Young Children." The lecture will be held in Lipsett Amphitheater, Bldg. 10, beginning at 3 p.m.

Dr. Albert Z. Kapikian

Kapikian is acknowledged by the biomedical community as the father of human gastroenteritis virus research. In the early 1970's, when he began those studies, there was little or nothing in the medical literature about specific viruses that cause gastrointestinal disease. Kapikian's pioneering studies were based on the use of immune electron microscopy, a technique in which viral particles are identified through the use of antibodies. This work led to the discovery, detection and characterization of important viruses responsible for major disease in humans. In 1972, he discovered, identified and visualized the Norwalk virus, the first virus to be associated with acute epidemic gastroenteritis in humans. In 1973, again with this technique, Kapikian and two colleagues were the first to visualize and identify the virus that causes hepatitis A. One year later, in studies of infants and young children hospitalized with diarrhea, he detected and visualized human rotaviruses. This was the first reported detection in the United States of human rotavirus, which was discovered in Australia in 1973.

Since that time, Kapikian has focused on study of the rotavirus. In a nearly 25-year effort, he led an NIAID team to develop an oral, four-strain rotavirus vaccine. Upon its approval by the Food and Drug Administration in 1998, it became the first rotavirus vaccine to be licensed in the U.S.

Kapikian earned his bachelor of science degree cum laude in 1952 from New York's Queens College, where he was also a standout baseball pitcher, setting a record of 11 consecutive wins. He received his medical degree from Cornell University Medical College in 1956 and, in the following year, joined NIH as a commissioned officer in the Public Health Service. In 1967, he was appointed to his current position.

Kapikian has received numerous honors for his achievements, including the 1998 Pasteur Award from the Children's Vaccine Initiative. He has spoken at numerous national and international conferences and was elected president for the 1996-1997 term of the American Epidemiological Society.

NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci will introduce Kapikian and invites attendees to a reception to be held in the Lipsett lobby immediately after the lecture.

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