Mid-way through the DTM&H: Fire and Flukes

8 Oct 2015

Vanessa Yarwood, DTMH 2015 

Time is flying by in Liverpool – this week marks the halfway point of the DTM&H, which seems to have hurtled past whilst at the same time delivering a huge volume of information. The Big Three have been covered (Malaria, TB, and HIV) and our creative sides have sprung out of the woodwork with songs and role plays to complement our learning. A particular favourite of mine was Hazel’s outstanding TB rap to the tune of Fresh Prince of Bel Air, after some truly wonderful acting.

During the HIV week, those that wished, stayed after class and watched the film ‘Fire In The Blood’. This is ‘an intricate tale about Medicine, Monopoly and Malice’. It tells of the rise of the anti-retroviral medicines in the 1990s, medicines that changed the course of this terrible, unrelenting, fatal HIV disease into something that was treatable. However, these medicines, at $10,000 per patient per year were completely and utterly unavailable to the millions of people that desperately needed them, at the epicentre of the crisis in Africa. This is a shocking and sad story of how the Western world stood by and ignored tens of millions of people. Although these medicines are now produced at a reduced cost, in part thanks to Cipla, an Indian generic pharmaceutical manufacturer with a humanitarian chairman at its head, and also relaxation of patent laws by governments, it is still an issue present today. The recent skyrocketing price of pyrimethamine, a drug commonly used in patients with HIV highlights this, and with increased drug resistance developing there will be a need for expensive second-line antiretroviral therapies in low income countries. I would urge you to watch the trailer (and the film!). 

This week has been dominated by worms. We have been taught seemingly infinite numbers of life cycles, and examined and identified many different eggs under our microscopes. Lunch has been an issue, as eating watercress in my salad immediately after being described how liver flukes inhabit this leafy green, in England, made it less than appetising. The queue at the end of the schistosomiasis lecture for the treatment drug (Praziquentel) was evidence of how our lecturers had convinced us that our casual approach to swimming in freshwater lakes, such as Lake Victoria or Lake Malawi, meant many of us were probably harbouring these parasitic blood flukes. We most certainly wished to rid ourselves of these parasites in order to avoid any undesirable consequences, no matter how lovingly their existence in perpetual copulation was described. 

I have to also reference the social scene of the DTM&H course, as it never stops! Whether it be birthday dinners (most recently a fabulous show by the chefs at the Teppanyaki restaurant Sapporo, exercise and dancing classes, walking ghost tours of Liverpool, games nights, climbing Snowdon on a beautiful sunny day, a ladies “Scouse” night out, political plays (the emotional Lampedusa) or watching the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra perform. Coming up this weekend, is the meticulously organised weekend away to North Wales. I am particularly looking forward to climbing up Tryfan, and of course, the neon themed rave in the evening!