Our COO has just returned from Peru, after helping 1,330 people with epilepsy.

This is our first trip to South America, and we are formalizing the relationships that we have already forged. Karte_Piura_Tumbes One of our initial challenges was finding a partner organization with whom we could establish a long-term collaboration.  While at first we had hoped to work in Joras, it proved impracticable for several reasons. For one, it relied on volunteer help. While we admire the Peace Corps and love the fact that we wouldn’t have to pay the volunteers, the program does have its drawbacks. In this case, it was that they have decided to beat a semi-hasty retreat from the Joras due to what were perceived as physical safety threats to their volunteers. While we do agree that no one should have to be in danger in order to do this work, there was difference of opinion–including among the volunteers–as to whether it was necessary to pull out.  We naturally accept their judgment and use this as an illustration that exemplifies just one of the difficulties of this work. Another drawback with using organizations such as the Peace Corps is that the volunteers are all going to have limits as to how long they can serve. Because PAZ is committed to long-term and sustainable improvements, with each project we will have to weigh the savings afforded by volunteers against the limited time that the volunteers will work with us. We hope that in the future that we can partner with these organizations to the extent that we have a reliable supply of volunteers. We have opted to work with the Centro de Salud Global, an organization under the control of Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia (UPCH), one of Peru’s premier universities.  The Centro is under the directorship of Dr. Hector Hugo Garcia, one of the world’s foremost experts in neurocysticercosis. Furthermore, the Centro has a large amount of accumulated experience dealing with this disease. They have many employees who have been working there for at least 10 years. At the current moment, the center’s medical director, Dr. Luz Maria Moyano, is superintending the treatment of 1, 330 people with neurocysticercosis. Treatment consists of two parts: treating the infection by the parasite, and treating the epilepsy until the infection has been cleared for enough time to go into remission. The infection is treated with the antiparasitic  niclosamide. The seizures are prevented (ideally) or reduced with phenytoin, phenobarbital, or carbemazapine. As with most diseases, and especially the Neglected Tropical Diseases, poverty is a risk factor. Even though these drugs are generic, the cost is often prohibitive to those who need them. PAZ will be assisting in the purchase and dispensing of these medications to those 1,330 who have been identified as needing treatment, as well as monitoring the progress of the program. In addition, we will be conducting an educational campaign to prevent the transmission of cysticercosis and taeniasis. (Remember:  Taeniasis is infection with the adult tapeworms, which are acquired by eating infested pork products and reside in the intestines, and cysticercosis is infection with the intermediate stage cysts–cysticerci–and are acquired by the fecal-oral route.)

The cysticerci can invade multiple tissues. Here is a larval form in the eye of a cysticercosis patient.

The cysticerci can invade multiple tissues. Here is a larval form in the eye of a cysticercosis patient.

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