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Holiday Lectures on Science Teach Teens about Infectious Diseases

Holiday Lectures on Science Teach Teens about Infectious Diseases

Summary

Students and teachers throughout the U.S. and Canada learn about science's successes, shortcomings and promising new discoveries in combating infections from Donald E. Ganem and B. Brett Finlay, in the 1999 Holiday Lectures on Science.

Is science winning or losing the war against infectious diseases? Both, say two scientists on the front lines of the research battleground. In the annual Holiday Lectures on Science on December 6 and 7 at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) conference center just outside Washington, D.C., Donald E. Ganem, M.D., an HHMI investigator at the University of California San Francisco, and B. Brett Finlay, Ph.D., an HHMI international research scholar at the University of British Columbia in Canada, will discuss science's successes, shortcomings and promising new discoveries in combating infections.

In a program entitled 2000 and Beyond: Confronting the Microbe Menace, Ganem and Finlay will address an international audience of students, teachers and others via satellite and the World Wide Web. The Institute will host a live audience of approximately 200 Washington, D.C., area high school students at HHMI headquarters in Chevy Chase, Md.

Ganem will explain how medical science determines whether diseases are infectious and tracks down the microbial culprits. He will also explore how epidemics arise, influenced by changes in the environment and human behavior, as well as by genetic mutations in microbes themselves. A professor of medicine and microbiology at the University of California San Francisco, Ganem's research focuses on the hepatits B and D viruses and on human herpesvirus 8, a newly identified virus that appears to cause Kaposi's sarcomathe most common cancer in AIDS patients.

Finlay will discuss the dramatic victories won after the discovery of antibiotics, but also the way microbes are fighting back by developing antibiotic-resistance that can make even routine infections deadly. Then he will describe the hunt for new weapons, which begins with research into the tricks that microbes use to escape the body's defenses and make themselves at home in host cells. His own research has revealed that some bacteria infect by injecting their own "docking receptor" or landing pad into human cells. Finlay is a professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. He studies the molecular biology of bacterial pathogens, including Salmonella and E. coli, which cause food poisoning, and H. pylori, which can cause stomach ulcers. This year he won one of Canada's most prestigious science awards, the Steacie Prize.

An online question-and-answer session and live video chat with the scientists follows each day's lectures at www.asklive.org. The talks will be rebroadcast later each day and again during January 2000.

A Holiday Lectures Web site, www.holidaylectures.org, features virtual labs where students can analyze human blood, explore a pumping heart, watch a virus invade a cell or dissect a leech to learn the mysteries of the nervous system. The Web site also offers teacher resources, online exhibits and the "Ask a Scientist" feature, where students can email questions. Teachers who register in advance receive free Teacher and Student Guides to help them integrate the Holiday Lectures with their curriculum.

The Holiday Lectures Web features are part of HHMI's Web site, which provides information about biomedical research as well as online activities and resources for science teachers and students.

HHMI is a philanthropic organization whose scientists conduct biomedical research at more than 70 universities and medical centers nationwide. The Institute also awards more than $100 million annually to science education programs across the country, the largest privately funded science education initiative in U.S. history.