A medical Negligence results in devastating Consequences
The WHO defines Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) as “a diverse group of communicable diseases that prevail in tropical and subtropical conditions in 149 countries.” In sum, they affect over a billion people in the poorest countries of the world. NTDs threaten the health of both humans and their livestock, whereby vast areas of infested countries are rendered uninhabitable. Limited access to adequate health services complicates surveillance and therefore diagnosis and treatment of an infection. The lack of financial resources, inadequate sanitation and population displacements e.g. due to military conflicts are further important factors that facilitate NTD transmission in endemic countries. 
Taking a closer look on the temporality of NTDs, one observes an entanglement between NTD epidemics and the socio-economic situation of a country. One historic example is the murderous Rubber Harvest of the so called “Congo Free State”, ordered by its usurpator Leopold II, King of Belgium in the late 19th century. A growing demand for rubber dramatically increased the value for latex, a milky juice produced by certain plants. Due to the greed of Leopold II, thousands of Congolese people were forced to harvest vines containing the valuable resource in Trypanosoma-infested areas.  The continuous exposure of the Congolese to Trypanosoma-infected flies thus led to a singular outbreak of African Sleeping Sickness in the Congo Basin. This example hauntingly demonstrates how the economic interests of a few can lead to the death of millions via NTDs.
Temporality of NTDs is a major part of my studies because the entanglement of colonial economy with NTDs can be applied to nowadays epidemics in a globalised world. Knowledge of these relationships may provide suitable lessons to prevent future outbreaks of NTDs. Additionally, a closer look on politics and social structures of an infested country may contribute to a better understanding of the origin of NTDs and their impact on every day life. Thus, an interdisciplinary community like the Graduate College “Life Sciences – Life Writing” provides an ideal conceptual framework to conduct research on this topic.
Infections with parasites rank among the most prevalent and deadly NTDs. They are caused by e.g. members of the Trypanosomatida parasite family, namely various Trypanosoma and Leishmania species.[1-3] Diseases caused by Trypanosomatida are found worldwide and are transmitted to a human or animal (host) via the bite of an infected insect (vector).  The most prominent diseases caused by Trypanosomatida are the African Sleeping Sickness, the Chagas Disease, Leishmaniasis and numerous plagues limiting stock breeding, namely Nagana, Surra and several others. 
Medication for some trypanosomatid diseases is available yet expensive, barely accessible, hard to administer and highly toxic itself.  It is therefore most unfortunate that progress in the development of anti-trypanosomatid drugs has been negligible in the last 50 years. For this reason, the development of new therapeutic approaches for trypanosomatid diseases is my second research interest.
As a Biomedical Chemist, I am dedicated to understanding Chemistry of Life in various organisms. During my PhD studies, I thus will focus on an essential metabolic pathway of Trypanosomatida as a new therapeutic target. This pathway, namely the Peroxide Clearance Cascade, protects Trypanosomatida from oxidative damage caused by the accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS are small molecules, created in every organism as a side product of nutrient digestion and need to get degraded to maintain cell viability. Since the parasitic cascade strongly differs from the human analog and was shown to be essential for Trypanosomatida, it is reported to be an ideal drug target.
The Peroxide Clearance Cascade (PCC) consists of various components: Enzymatically active proteins and small molecules. They can be thought of as gears: Impairing one results in the arrest of the whole system. In case of the PCC, this arrest causes an accumulation of ROS within Trypanosomatida and ultimately death of these parasites. For this reason, research on the PCC components and their interaction with each other is the main focus of my biochemical studies.
Author: Eric Schwegler