This medical monstrosity is one of several infections that falls under the umbrella category of neglected tropical diseases. Like the name suggests, these diseases are found in tropical climates (such as Ghana) and have gone historically untreated. In many cases treatments exist; however, for one reason or another (lack of funding, difficulty in disseminating it to rural areas, etc) has not been used widespread enough to eradicate it. While some of these diseases in particular are very difficult to rid the world of because they have many ways of transmitting, Guiana Worm luckily is not. Guiana Worm can only be transmitted through contaminated water. Because of this important fact in the crusade against the disease, clean water sources are critical. It is using this fact and a persistent multi-facet approach that Jim has been able to deliver impressive results in Guiana Worm eradication. In particular, Jim has had great success by working closely with international aid organizations that specialize in water sanitation projects to get funding towards villages at high risk for the disease.
Before Jim came to the country in 2006, cases per year in Ghana had been stagnant at about 4,000 per year. With no real change in funding, he has focused the Carter Institute’s efforts on going from the defensive to more aggressive offensive tactics in eradicating the disease. His approach so far has set a new record for the reduction of cases with the last case (fingers cross it will stay this way) having bee reported in May of 2010. Jim’s experience and story reminded me of the importance of innovation and creativity in solving any problem, particularly a persistent one.