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Baylor College of Medicine News

Tropical medicine clinic opens at Ben Taub Hospital

Globalization has opened the door for educational opportunities and travel around the world, but it also has left that door open for tropical diseases that are not commonly seen in the United States. Physicians with Ben Taub General Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine have established a new clinic to address and treat these diseases.

The new clinic, located at Ben Taub Hospital, part of the Harris County Hospital District, will see patients on Fridays from 10 a.m. to noon. Because many patients in Harris County come from tropical regions such as Latin America, Asia and Africa, a clinic was needed to address diseases from these parts of the world. In addition, there is a hidden burden of transmission of certain tropical infections in Houston and in Texas.

Concentration of NTDs

Houston's proximity to the border is also a factor in these illnesses spreading to the city and the state. Those who travel to these countries also have a chance of acquiring these diseases during their visits.

"Neglected tropical diseases are present in poor or middle income countries, but there are also diseases right here in the United States that appear to be concentrated wherever there is extreme poverty along the Gulf Coast and South Texas," said Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at BCM.

Identifying, treating diseases

"We have the diagnostic tools to identify these diseases and treat these patients, and they will now have a shorter wait time to see a doctor," said Dr. Laila Woc-Colburn, assistant professor of medicine – infectious disease at BCM and co-director of medical education at BCM's National School for Tropical Medicine.

The clinic will address diseases such as neurocysticercosis – a parasitic disease that can cause seizures, Chagas – an illness spread by insects that is common in South and Central America, as well as tuberculosis and other bacterial diseases.

Experts at the newly established National School of Tropical Medicine at BCM hope to work closely with these patients to potentially develop vaccines that would prevent these diseases not only in Houston, but around the world.

For more information about the clinic at Ben Taub Hospital, call (713) 873-3165.