Global Infectious Diseases

Discipline: Biology
Instructor: Dahl
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 1550
End: 1710
Field Work: Day 1 - Wednesday, 15 October | Italy
Prerequisites: One semester of college-level introductory biology. Download Syllabus

Prior to the discovery of antibiotics in the first half of the 20th century, infectious diseases regularly killed huge numbers of human beings, and epidemics have routinely altered historical events in communities and whole societies. In the past several decades, improvements in public health and availability of effective drugs have greatly reduced human morbidity and mortality. However, the threats of drug-resistance and new emerging infectious diseases pose increasing challenges to global health. In this course we will look at the microbiology, epidemiology, management, and social impacts of six major human infectious diseases: influenza, HIV/AIDS, cholera, tuberculosis, malaria, and human helminthic infections. Necessary biological background will be provided where appropriate, e.g. the anatomy/physiology of the human respiratory, digestive, circulatory, integumentary, and immunological systems. We will also look at antibiotic discovery and the molecular actions of antibiotics and explanations for why antibiotic resistance occurs. Around St. Petersburg (formerly Leningrad) we will have the chance to discuss typhus and while in Ireland we will discuss a single infections plant disease (potato blight) that altered human history. Near Ghana and in the Amazon Basin we will find time to discuss yellow fever and schistosomiasis, and in South Africa we will have an opportunity to visit a former leper colony.

Field Work

Country: Italy
Day: 1 - Wednesday, 15 October

It has been written that "cities are the grave yards of humanity." This statement can be taken to mean that when many people gather together in high densities they predispose themselves to increased of morbidity and mortality by infections.  In this field lab we will visit one of the world's great cities, Rome, which has been dealing with issues of infectious disease for thousands of years.  Many theories exist for the cause of the fall of the Roman empire (poor administration, barbarian invasions, an inability to continue to expand) and one theory states that the fall was due to malaria, an endemic disease in Rome up until the mid 20th century.  On this field lab we will first visit the Tiberine Island, the only island on the Fiume Tevere that houses ancient temples that served the purpose of hospices for those suffering infectious disease.  Even today this island is the location of one of Italy's most prestigious hospitals - the Fatebenefratelli.  From this site we will be able to see the Cloaca Maxima, an ancient Roman construction necessary to drain the rain to prevent standing water that would allow for mosquito breeding sites.  One the second part of our field lab we will visit the Museum of Medicine in the University district of La Sapienza.  There a docent will lead a tour of the exhibits that chronicalize the history western medicine from ancient Roman times. Academic Objectives: 1. to visualize how ancient civilizations dealt with infectious diseases before the nature of contagion was understood. 2. to help understand societal solutions to public health issues involving infectious agents. 3. to learn more about the development of the germ theory of disease