China’s Hookworms Redux

My visits to Shanghai and the Chinese National Institute of Parasitic Diseases (IPD) began almost 20 years ago in the winter of 1994. I was eager to work at the IPD – then a component of the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine (CAPM) later the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDC) –- following their publication of an extraordinary parasite epidemiology study of incredible magnitude that may never be repeated. Beginning late in the 1980s and into the early 1990s Chinese parasitologists conducted fecal examinations on almost 1.5 million people across all provinces. The study first published in the English biomedical literature in the Southeast Asian Journal of Tropical Medicine and Public Health found that hundreds of millions of Chinese were infected with soil-transmitted helminths (STHs), including 194 million people with hookworm infection (‘hookworm’). Most of these infections were south of the Yangtze River, cutting across all of the southern provinces from East to West, and I felt the IPD was an ideal institute to begin the co-development of a prototype human hookworm vaccine.

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