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MAS IN ACTION
BOLIVIA MENINGITIS APPEAL

Scottish Catholic Observer
Friday February 16 2007

'We are keen to use the lab skills we use every day in Glasgow to do something ground-breaking in Bolivia'.

"Two Scots doctors have appealed for funding to help them carry out potentially life-saving work in an impoverished region of Bolivia.

The medics, Dr Donald Inverarity, a consultant medical microbiologist at Glasgow University and Dr Matthew Diggle, a clinical scientist at the Scottish meningococcal Pneumococcal Reference Laboratory (SMPRL), at Stobhill hospital, need to raise £17,000 for travel and equipment to carry out their task.

The work, which the men will begin in June of this year, will analyse the epidemics of meningitis and invasive pneumococcal disease (pneumonia) in the Beni region of Bolivia, with a view to isolating antibiotics that are no longer effective and providing vaccines that will combat some of the associated conditions such as 'glue ear' (childhood deafness).

Former colleague Dr Diego Santana-Hernandez - a Spanish ear, nose, and throat specialist - lives and works in the region and founded a project called Foundation Total, which aims to improve standards of health service provision.

It was he, and the Bolivian National Reference Laboratory, who invited the men to visit the region and put their expertise and knowledge of tropical medicine to practical and beneficial use.

Dr Inverarity spoke to SCO about his hopes and fears for their impending visit:

"The project we are undertaking would be the first of its kind in the region and we are keen to do it as it would use the lab skills we use every day in Glasgow to do something ground-breaking in Bolivia.

"This study will provide doctors locally and nationally with some idea of which antibiotics are no longer suitable because of (human) resistance. We will also try and create a link between national microbiologists in Bolivia and SMPRL so that skills can be transferred and Bolivian staff can perhaps come to Scotland and learn some of our techniques".

He added: "This work can make a big difference to health care in the region over the coming years and I am keen to work with my longstanding friend and colleague Dr Santana-Hernandez and contributing to the significant work he has set up".

UPDATE

To date, the doctors received financial support from the Meningitis Association Scotland and were also helped by the provision of free travel to London courtesy of Virgin Rail in order to catch their flights to Bolivia.

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