Emily Deischel, MPH

Nominated From: University of Washington

Research Site: Peru

Research Area: Infectious Disease

Primary Mentor: Joseph Zunt, M.D., M.P.H (University of Washington)

Research Project

Incidence, Etiology, and Severity Travelers’ Diarrhea Among Students at a Spanish Language School in Cusco, Peru

Infectious diarrhea remains a major threat to travelers and populations (predominantly children) living in the developing world. It is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide with children under 5 being at greatest risk and with mortality rates 3 to 6 fold higher in the developing world as compared to the United States or Europe. In travelers, diarrhea is the most frequent health problem among those coming from developed countries affecting 20-60% of travelers with a bacterial pathogen suspected as the cause in at least 80% of cases. Despite advances in our understanding of the incidence, prevalence, and biology of infectious diarrhea, obstacles remain to the development of effective countermeasures.

The project is a longitudinal prospective study using foreign language school in Cusco to enroll students from developed nations as they arrive in Peru. We will enroll students upon arrival to Cusco and track them during the entirety of their stay, regardless of their symptoms. We will also be able to capture all diarrheal episodes and identify the infecting agent. This study design will allow us to determine incidence, etiology and severity of diarrheal diseases infecting travelers in Cusco. We also can identify asymptomatic (not symptomatic) infections in students and attempt to categorize when and why this occurs.

Research Significance

Despite much research on diarrheal diseases, rates of infection remain high, particularly among children and international travelers. Data collected from this study could low us to fully characterize epidemics of diarrheal disease as they spread through the school and determine mitigating factors which might be capitalized on to prevent transmission.

Advice for Potential Applicants

Contact potential mentors in country and at your home institution that will be able to advise you during your research. And go for it!