Disease Eradication Efforts Set Sights On Polio, Guinea Worm

“It’s not a race, exactly, but there’s an intriguing uncertainty about whether a former U.S. president or a software magnate will cause the next deliberate extinction of a species in the wild. Will Jimmy Carter eradicate Guinea worm before Bill Gates eradicates polio?” Wall Street Journal commentator Matt Ridley asks in his “Mind & Matter” column. The last case of disease eradication was smallpox in 1977, Ridley notes, describing the efforts of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carter Center to wipe out polio and Guinea worm, respectively. “Supposing these two welcome eradications do happen this decade, what parasites go next?” he asks, stating lymphatic filariasis and Onchocerciasis, also known as river blindness, top the list. Ridley also notes “[t]he first bacterium to be driven extinct could be yaws,” as it is treatable with one dose of the antibiotic azithromycin and “should be gone by 2020” (2/8).

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