Via Nature News & Comment: Trump immigration ban upends international work on disease. Excerpt:
Diseases don’t respect borders, laws or walls. And efforts to combat them rely on networks of scientists to detect outbreaks early, understand how the diseases operate and then intervene. Researchers say that President Donald Trump’s travel ban challenges that process, putting the United States at risk.
The policy, enacted on 27 January, bars refugees from entering the country for 120 days, except those from Syria, who are banned indefinitely. Citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen are banned for 90 days. On 1 February, the White House said that the order did not apply to people from those countries who hold US permanent-resident visas, or green cards.
Still, “the ban could hamper our ability to learn about the epidemiology of neglected diseases emerging out of conflict zones”, says infectious disease expert Peter Hotez at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. For example, leishmaniasis is spreading in occupied areas of Syria and Iraq, and schistosomiasis is spreading in Yemen. “Scientific communities across the world need collaborators in these countries who can combat epidemics before they arrive in the US,” Hotez says.
The ban has already disrupted work on a vaccine for leishmaniasis, says Farrokh Modabber, an Iranian infectious-disease scientist with collaborators at the US National Institutes of Health and the Pasteur Institute of Iran, among others. They've already discussed whether to cancel an upcoming meeting due to travel concerns, but Modabber is also worried about how the US immigration stance could affect their work in the long term. US-led teams have been developing tropical disease vaccines and drugs over the past decade, he says, but testing them could be difficult or impossible without the involvement of scientists in those countries where the diseases are endemic.
Sudanese scientists on the frontlines of tropical disease are stunned as well. In Sudan’s capital Khartoum, Ahmed Fahal, directs the Mycetoma Research Centre — the world’s only research centre devoted to a potentially lethal condition caused by flesh-eating fungi and bacteria. Although mycetoma afflicts impoverished people in at least 23 countries, vanishingly little is known about the malady and there’s no reliable cure.
Last May, the World Health Organization added mycetoma to their list of tropical diseases that require attention. Soon after, Fahal was invited to speak at this year’s American Society of Microbiology conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, in June. He had planned to talk with scientists from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about monitoring mycetoma, and to find collaborators from universities in the United States, India and Nigeria. Now, Fahal fears he must cancel his plans. “It’s a big blow,” he says.