Nick Louth writes regular columns for
the Financial Times, Investors Chronicle and MSN Money
website. He spent 12 years as a reporter at Reuters, in
London, New York, Hong Kong and Amsterdam. Writing a
thriller, particularly one with a scientific basis, was
something of a departure, as Ian Evans discovered.
Q “So what made you want to write a
thriller about tropical diseases?
A: “I felt that the deaths of millions
of people in the developing world were being ignored. I
remember when I was at Reuters in the 1990s I covered a
conference in Amsterdam about tropical diseases and was
astonished at the lack of international press interest .
Scientists on almost shoe-string budgets were trying to
find a cure for real killers like malaria, river
blindness, and debilitating parasites like bilharzia.
The death toll was like a September 11 every single day,
yet most drug companies were reluctant to commit
substantial funds to research because the victims had no
Q “But that has changed now, hasn’t
A: “To some extent. The hundreds of
millions of dollars donated by the Gates Foundation
have been hugely helpful, and governments are now really
trying to pull together. Of course, some drug companies
have long donated suitable compounds, as Merck does with
ivermectin, the drug to treat river blindness. Most
would love to help, but it is hard to justify the
enormous expense to shareholders unless governments are
there to buy the products .
Q “So do you think the threat from
parasitic diseases will recede over time?”
“I hope so. However, treatment is
rarely simple. Lack of infrastructure and access to even
basic medical facilities mean that even if effective
drugs are available, they often don’t get to those who
need them. On the other hand global warming and the way
that we travel ensures that all diseases have a better
shot at world-wide establishment. You only have to look
at the cattle disease blue tongue, originally from
Africa, which has just been found in Britain. These
diseases are likely to remain a huge challenge for
decades to come.
© copyright 2002 - 2010 Nick
Louth, Ludensian Books