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The Gilded Vectors of Disease

Friday, 30 March 2012

The Gilded Vectors of Disease radio series traverses the world in eight perennial purveyors of disease with the world-renowned London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

A golden mosquito adorns the front of the School, with seven other gilded vectors of disease. These have slithered, scurried, flown and bitten into the lives of humans down the ages and into our modern life, often viewed with horror or disgust, even with surprising love. Each 30-minute programme takes one of these potent symbols of pestilence as its theme to explore how the rat, the louse, the snake, the flea and more, have plagued us through history and how science is winning the war today.

The Gilded Vectors of Disease radio series was heard on Resonance 104.4 FM Radio in London and worldwide via Resonancefm.com  April-March 2012. Listen to episode previews in the player above.

Episode 1, Louse: Professor of Public Health & Entomology Steve Lindsay shares his special fascination for the tiny but game changing louse. Steve has some very unexpected stories to tell and there's a truly novel suggestion for the 2012 London mayoral election. Plus, Pittsburgh writer and artist Justin Hopper takes us on a vivid journey into the trenches of WWI.

Episode 2, Rat: We hear from LSHTM experts including epidemiologist Dr Caroline Lynch, who maps the patterns of disease in populations, and pathogen molecular biologist Dr Jon Cuccui, a plague expert who was part of a project to extract DNA from the teeth of medieval London plague victims' skeletons. Plus, Museum of London curator Beverly Cook reveals the uncomfortably close daily relationship 19th-century Londoners had with rats before the arrival of the Victorian sewers. Paul Sherreard of the London Metropolitan Archives gives a richly entertaining insight into the Victorian obsession with tunneling. Poet George Stone delivers a spellbinding tale of unwelcome arrivals in England and misplaced blame.

Episode 3, Bedbug: Zoologist, entomologist and LSHTM lecturer Dr James Logan joins  Dr Richard Barnett, a Wellcome Trust Public Engagement Fellow and medical historian, and Kelley Swaine, Writer-in-Residence at the Whipple Museum of the History of Science, in the School’s fascinating insectaries hidden beneath the streets of Bloomsbury to visit bedbug Colditz, where nothing's getting out.

Episode 4, Mosquito, was recorded and transmitted live on World Malaria Day 2012. Special Guest: Professor David Schellenberg (Professor of Malaria & International Health and director of the ACT Consortium). Over a century after the discovery of the vector of the biggest killer in human history, where next for malaria? Rob Falconer visits London’s Hospital for Tropical Diseases to meet Professor Chris Whitty, the previous Professor of Malaria & International Health at the School, consultant physician at the London Hospital for Tropical Diseases, and the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser at the Department for International Development. Chris discusses the problem of drug resistant strains of malaria emerging in Cambodia and Thailand. “Very special guest appearance” from Victorian malaria pioneer and Nobel prize winner Sir Ronald Ross

Episode 5, Flea: We meet insect-identification specialist Cheryl Whitehorn, the Sherlock Holmes of the School. Cheryl's fascinating knowledge and enthusiasm for her subjects is as infectious as the diseases they can transmit, but thankfully a great deal more enjoyable. Presenter Rebecca Tremain meets the Brazilian Salmon Pink Bird-eating Tarantula who shares Cheryl's lab and makes some surprising discoveries about the Victorian flea circus. Also, Dr Caroline Lynch meets the Museum of London's Beverley Cook to discover how the Victorian gentlewomen of the Ladies' Sanitary Association, with precisely no hands-on domestic experience of their own, set about tackling home hygiene and fleas in the slums. And guest poet Nicholas Alexander ruminates on uninvited little guests.

Episode 6, Snake: Guest reporter and episode co-deviser Gary Merry tries to discover if his fear of snakes (Ophidiophobia) is inherited or learnt. He asks behavioural scientist Dr Val Curtis, the Director of the Hygiene Centre at LSHTM and regular contributor to TV and radio. Renowned experts in snake-bite treatment and venom research David Lalloo and Dr Robert Harrison explain why snake bite is one of the world's most under-resourced and under-recognised tropical diseases, and so difficult to tackle. Our ophidiophobic crash-test reporter has a riveting encounter with lethally venomous puff adders. And actor and director Sonia Ritter brings to life the ancient Palestinian tale of how the snake became the most unloved creature of all.

Episode 7, Tick: The School's Dr Toby Leslie describes his work in Kabul, Afghanistan, investigating the outbreak of tick-borne Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF) and its impact on an already beleaguered and war-torn population. He also discusses how radio is being used to communicate public health information. We also hear from Patience Fominyen at the Cameroon-based Radio Health International and Resonance FM's Vincent Luttman. Also in this episode: presenter Rebecca Tremain meets one of the School's archivists, Emma Golding, to look at some of the medical and historical treasures in the School's collection. And guest writer Lucy Greeves gives a stunningly evocative reading from her memoirs of living in Kenya as the young daughter of missionary parents and reveals the trials faced by 19th century missionaries in Africa.

Episode 8, Fly: We hear from Dr Jennifer Palmer, who has just gained her PhD at LSHTM, studying the Tsetse Fly and the impact of Sleeping Sickness in the Sudan. It’s all about the future: we meet some of the next generation of pioneers working with flies in all their varieties and discuss the culprit of the mysterious Sahara Sleep. Jennifer meets Cameron Richards (Natural History Museum) to find out how flies are being used in forensic investigation and talks to Tom "Indiana" Lindsay Jnr about turning the simplest and most unglamorous of everyday objects into innovative field defences against disease transmission. LSHTM archivist Frieda Midgely brings the treasured Carpenter journal into the studio to see how the original pioneers worked out in the field. (Natural History Museum/Tom Lindsay Segment producer: Tom Taplin).

Series Producer & Presenter: Rebecca Tremain
Series Co-producer & Editor: Rob Falconer
Script Consultant: Gary Merry

For more information about the series, visit www.themustardclub.org

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