Reflections on the 2017 US-Japan Cooperative Medical Sciences Program in Seoul

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David A. Sack, MD

Professor | Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Dove team at the US-Japan 2017 meeting.

This year’s US- Japan Cooperative Medical Sciences Program cholera panel marked the 51st year since the cooperative meeting began. Looking back on the conference proceedings, you can trace the progress of cholera and enteric disease research over the past 51 years.  The conference has provided the space to share information on improved treatments, including a presentation on the historic, ground-breaking discovery of oral rehydration therapy in 1968, the failure of the old injectable cholera vaccine, and more recently, the successes of the new oral cholera vaccine.

Attendees of the cholera panel meetings come from varied backgrounds, consisting of clinical doctors, microbiologists, epidemiologists, social scientists, and public health leaders.  Although some of the discussions are highly technical, they all add to the long-term goal of controlling cholera.  Initially, this meeting included scientists almost exclusively from the United States and Japan, but now it is a truly international group including scientists from Asian and African countries - countries where people know the disease first-hand and not just from the viewpoint of a laboratory.

This year, the Delivering Oral Vaccine Effectively (DOVE) team at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health presented an impressive and wide-ranging series of papers and posters:

  • Identification of hotspots and risk factors for cholera in India
  • Genetic Relatedness of Vibrio cholera isolates during outbreaks in Dhaka, Bangladesh
  • Safety of a killed oral cholera vaccine in pregnant women in Malawi: An observational cohort study
  • Cultural influences behind cholera transmission in the Far North Region, Republic of Cameroon:
  • Rapid detection of cholera using Dipsticks and Alkaline Peptone Water in Uganda (APW)
  • Feasibility of a Comprehensive Targeted Cholera Intervention in Kathmandu Valley, Nepal

This 51st US-Japan Cooperative Medical Sciences Program cholera panel continues in a long line of discussions that add to the ongoing understanding of this disease.  I wonder which of the presentations in 2017 will later be recognized as “historic” like the original presentation on oral rehydration solution in 1968? We will have to wait a few more years to find out.