Meet America’s Foremost Zika Fighter

Dr. Peter Hotez is one of the world’s leading experts on so-called Neglected Tropical Diseases. These are a set of diseases, often times parasitic, that have historically afflicted the absolute poorest people on the planet. Some of these diseases are better known, like hookworm, leprosy, and now Zika. But most are virtually unknown outside the medical community, and many doctors as well have likely never heard of many of them.

That may soon change, thanks in part to the work of Dr. Peter Hotez. He is the founding dean of the first national school of tropical medicine in the United States, which is located at the Baylor College of medicine in Houston. Dr. Hotez is also the US Science Envoy, the Texas Children’s Hospital Chair in Tropical Pediatrics, and President-Sabin Vaccine Institute, among other affiliations.

Dr. Hotez is out with a new book called Blue Marble Health that offers evidence to support a provocative thesis that most of the global burden of these neglected tropical diseases can actually be found in the world’s wealthiest countries, including the United States. He shows that it is poverty among wealth that enables these diseases to fester, and that the the conditions to enable Zika and other NTDs to spread in the United States are prevalent in parts of the country. We kick off discussing this paradigm-shifting thesis, before learning how a mild mannered researcher from the great state of Connecticut ends up becoming obsessed with hookworms.

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