Visiting Scholar Elizabeth Thiele receives funding from The Carter Center
Elizabeth Thiele, Visiting Scholar in the Department of Biology, has been a Technical Consultant for The Carter Center since 2015, and recently received the Center’s renewed support toward her ongoing research into the population genetics of Dracunculus medinensis (Guinea worm). Dr. Thiele’s work contributes to the global eradication campaign of Guinea worm, and throughout her eight years as a visiting scholar at Vassar, her relationship with The Carter Center has secured considerable support for her laboratory’s efforts.
Drancunculus medinensis is a nematode parasite of humans that causes debilitating pain and can lead to permanent injury to infected individuals. Since 1986, The Carter Center has led the charge to eradicate the parasite, for which there is no known drug for preventing or curing infection. Yet through very technologically simple interventions and increased awareness, infection prevalence has been reduced from approximately 3.5 million people in 21 countries in 1986 to 13 reported human cases in 3 countries in 2022. Thus, Guinea worm disease is on track to be the second human disease, after smallpox, to be eradicated. Dr. Thiele’s research will result in the most complete repository of human parasite genetic data ever collected in the eradication regime to date. The data is already having near-term programmatic impact on decision-making for country eradication programs and will be an important research tool to translate insights into other elimination and eradication efforts. The Carter Center’s renewal makes possible a post-baccalaureate fellow, Morgan Stephens (Vassar class of ’23), providing crucial support for Dr. Thiele in 2023–24.