Food for Thought: Giulio De Leo on Triple Win Planetary Health Innovations in Africa
Professor De Leo discussed innovative ways to control and eliminate a poverty-driven parasitic disease in West Africa.
Schistosomiasis is a disease caused by water-borne parasitic worms. More than 250 million people are currently infected, with 90% of cases in sub-Saharan Africa. Initially hosted by water snails, the parasite’s larvae infect people when they come into contact with the contaminated water that rural and poor populations rely upon for their irrigation, washing and fishing. While treatments for the disease exist, the prevalence of reinfection greatly reduces their efficacy.
On Tuesday, October 3, 2023, the King Center on Global Development invited the Stanford student community to hear from Professor of Oceans Giulio De Leo. His talk covered the progress made in reducing and eliminating schistosomiasis by targeting the environmental reservoir of the disease: the water snail population. A first method is to introduce snail predators to the river’s ecosystem, in particular the native African river prawn which used to be present before the construction of the Diama Dam blocked its migration. A second method focuses on removing the aquatic vegetation where the snails thrive and using the harvested vegetation to produce compost for agriculture and feed for livestock, creating a win-win-win for planetary health with an ecological solution to promote human health, improve nutrition and fight poverty at the same time.
About the Speaker:
Giulio De Leo, Faculty Affiliate at the King Center on Global Development
Giulio De Leo is a theoretical ecologist generally interested in investigating factors and processes driving the dynamics of natural and harvested populations and in understanding how to use this knowledge to inform practical management.
He studies resilience from two very different points of view: On the one hand, he studies populations that prove to be resilient despite our effort to control or eradicate them, namely parasitic and infectious diseases. On the other hand, he works to understand how to increase the resilience of populations of commercial or conservation interest to extensive harvesting, environmental shocks, climate change and land use change.
He has been working on a number of theoretical and applied problems ranging from the conservation of the European eel to the sustainable management of the abalone fishery in Baja California in the face of climate change, the biocontrol of schistosomiasis in west Africa, and the relationship between resource exploitation, infectious diseases and poverty traps.
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