"RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT IN COMBAT AGAINST INFECTIOUS DISEASES".- DR MARC-ALAIN WIDDOWSON, DIRECTOR, INSTITUTE OF TROPICAL MEDICINE
In August 2019, I was appointed as the director of The Institute of Tropical Medicine (ITM) in Antwerp. I studied Anthropology and Veterinary Medicine at Cambridge University before specialising in epidemiology of infectious diseases. I have lived and worked in eight different countries and on projects around the world, with a special focus on the epidemiology of epidemic viruses.
ITM, along with other similar institutes in Europe, are historically centers of expertise in ‘tropical diseases’, yet are located in very non-tropical countries. The idea of tropical diseases becomes increasingly outdated. The HIV, and now COVID-19 pandemic are just two examples of how emerging diseases not only are not confined to tropical countries but in the case of COVID-19, can affect non-tropical countries even worse than tropical countries.
Currently 75% of all new emerging infections are thought to come from animals, and global warming with ecologic degradation will only increase the number of new infections spilling over to the human population. Furthermore, increased global mobility allows for rapid spread of infections and the global economy is dependent on international supply chains and markets that rely on healthy populations.
Despite the dangerous and uncertain nature of rapid spread of infectious disease, most populations have an increasing standard of life, which also means that they are increasingly afflicted by health problems of richer countries such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Sadly, also some truly tropical but preventable diseases, often parasitic, are very debilitating and are often a scourge for poorer rural populations that are left behind as other nation’s progress.
Long story short, the Institute of Tropical Medicine is increasingly a global medicine institute. Our role is to foster and contribute to a strong international network of research and education institutes and to find people with a similar passion in order to understand and prevent diseases and thereby to improve health worldwide and in all people.
ITM believes in science as a tool to achieve this – through research, education and medical service delivery. We believe in supporting others around the world do the same in their countries – only this way can we build a healthier world together and for all.
INSTITUTE OF TROPICAL MEDICINE