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WSAID and the Leishmaniasis Project

By Murali Bashyam

We like to bring people and organizations together to help achieve common goals.  So when Deborah Loercher, President of Anoroc Agency, told me that I need to speak with Maria Corena-McLeod, a Director with the World Solutions Against Infectious Diseases (WSAID), I immediately jumped at the opportunity to learn more about Maria and her work with WSAID.

WSAID is the first non-profit organization dedicated to finding and implementing integrated, self-sustainable solutions to infectious disease control in affected communities. Their mission is to create strategies to provide education, research support and technical assistance to improve human health and decrease disease transmission and its causes worldwide.  Since one important mission of Friends Unite is creating sustainable health programs, I thought a strong nexus might exist between our two organizations.

During our conversation, Maria told me about the interesting and creative ways WSAID was working to combat infectious diseases in communities around the world.  I was also impressed by the passion Maria had for her work with WSAID, and the aggressive approach she took in partnering with others to advance the mission of WSAID.  We  agreed that since both our organizations are based on teamwork and share a common mission, we should find opportunities to work together.

A few days later, Maria called me about partnering on a project to educate communities in Haiti and Africa on the Leishmaniasis disease.  Leishmaniasis is transmitted by infected sand flies and causes severe skin sores in humans.  In its most extreme form, called Visceral Leishmaniasis, it can spread to vital organs and cause death if it is not treated properly.  Although there is no vaccine to combat Leishmaniasis, the best way to prevent it is to treat the infection before it spreads.

WSAID’s novel plan is to use soil samples collected near animal enclosures in proximity with human dwellings to develop a low-cost method for identifying Leishmania parasites and sand fly vectors.  Once the  Leishmaniasis ‘hot spots’ are identified, we can educate these communities and local Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs) on the Leishmaniasis disease, how to identify it, and how to treat it.

We will be submitting this proposal to the Gates Foundation for Phase 1 funding this week.   If approved by the foundation, WSAID, Friends Unite, and others will implement this plan to help prevent the spread of the Leishmaniasis disease.  In the meantime, we urge you to read this informative web site created by Alejandro Tobon, a young Scientist from Columbia who has developed creative ways to educate the public on the Leishmaniasis disease.

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