No Time to Lose: A Life in Pursuit of Deadly Viruses

Overview

When Peter Piot was in medical school, a professor warned, ?There?s no future in infectious diseases. They?ve all been solved.? Fortunately, Piot ignored him, and the result has been an exceptional, adventure-filled career. In the 1970s, as a young man, Piot was sent to Central Africa as part of a team tasked with identifying a grisly new virus. Crossing into the quarantine zone on the most dangerous missions, he studied local customs to determine how this disease?the Ebola virus?was spreading. Later, Piot found ...

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No Time to Lose: A Life in Pursuit of Deadly Viruses

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Overview

When Peter Piot was in medical school, a professor warned, “There’s no future in infectious diseases. They’ve all been solved.” Fortunately, Piot ignored him, and the result has been an exceptional, adventure-filled career. In the 1970s, as a young man, Piot was sent to Central Africa as part of a team tasked with identifying a grisly new virus. Crossing into the quarantine zone on the most dangerous missions, he studied local customs to determine how this disease—the Ebola virus—was spreading. Later, Piot found himself in the field again when another mysterious epidemic broke out: AIDS. He traveled throughout Africa, leading the first international AIDS initiatives there. Then, as founder and director of UNAIDS, he negotiated policies with leaders from Fidel Castro to Thabo Mbeki and helped turn the tide of the epidemic. Candid and engrossing, No Time to Lose captures the urgency and excitement of being on the front lines in the fight against today’s deadliest diseases.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Piot wanted a life of adventure and work that would save the world, and the Belgian-born infectious disease specialist, now director of the London School of Tropical Medicine, got exactly that: in Africa, he helped discover the Ebola virus and bring AIDS onto the world stage. In this inspiring memoir of working with the people and institutions that battled the viruses, Piot exudes intelligence, passion, and excitement. He was just 27 when he set out in 1976 to save the African heartland from a yet unnamed hemorrhagic virus—now known as Ebola—and became part of an international collaboration that isolated a disease fueled by poverty and the neglect of health systems. Twenty years later, battling AIDS was no less urgent, but more politically challenging. Piot helped assure that affordable drugs revolutionizing AIDS treatment would be available to the poorest victims. He leaves a legacy of change and hope in two worlds—medicine and politics—and an urgent reminder that their cooperation saves lives. Agent: Charlotte Sheedy, Charlotte Sheedy Agency. (May)
Library Journal
Piot (former undersecretary general, UN; director, London Sch. of Tropical Medicine) has written an inspiring and at times humorous memoir. Growing up in Belgium near the birthplace of 19th-century saint Father Damien, who was renowned for his work in Hawaii's leper colony, Piot was determined as a child to have exotic adventures and help the poor. Ignoring advice he received as a medical student that there was no future in infectious diseases since they had all been cured, Piot became a codiscoverer of the Ebola virus in former Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo). He eventually specialized in sexually transmitted diseases, an area that attracted him because many were easily treated and vital to reproductive health as well as having a fascinating microbiology. Piot offers insights into cutting-edge medical research and the discovery of emerging diseases and pathogens. He also chronicles the politics and challenges of the HIV pandemic and global health while touching on his experiences dealing with bureaucracies and facing down HIV/AIDS denial. VERDICT Reminiscent of Tracy Kidder's Mountains Beyond Mountains and highly recommended for fans of memoirs about medical breakthroughs.—Mary Chitty, Cambridge Healthtech Lib., Needham, MA
Kirkus Reviews
London School of Tropical Medicine director Piot gives a boots-on-the-ground account of the global struggle to contain two potentially devastating pandemics: Ebola hemorrhagic fever and AIDS. The former U.N. undersecretary general and director of UNAIDS describes himself as a "privileged witness and actor in the history of two of the most extraordinary adventures of our time." Growing up in a small Flemish farming village, his concern to "work for greater social justice and to travel" led him to choose infectious diseases as a medical specialty, despite advice from a professor who claimed that contagious diseases were mostly under control. In 1976, as a newly minted doctor and microbiologist, he was working in an Antwerp laboratory when they received samples of the then-unknown Ebola virus. There was a deadly outbreak in Zaire, and he was sent there to work with an international medical team to discover its mode of transmission and learn more about its characteristics. The major cause of the contagion was faulty sanitation in hospitals and in preparations for funerals; thankfully, public-health measures ultimately contained the virus. In addition to chronicling his work with the disease, Piot graphically describes the government's corruption and the impoverishment of the population. Six years later, AIDS surfaced as a disease apparently restricted to gay men, but cases began emerging of men and women in Africa and elsewhere who were not gay but exhibited symptoms of the disease. Blood donors and drug users were also being infected. At an international conference, Piot connected with U.S. infectious disease specialists from the National Institutes of Health. Through these contacts, he was able to procure American and European funding for "a second trip to Zaire that changed [his] life." An absorbing memoir in which the author learns to combat deadly diseases and maneuver in the international political scene.
The Lancet
“A riveting read.”— Laurie Garrett
Wall Street Journal
“An invaluable portrait of the evolution of international health in recent decades. . . . We need more people like Peter Piot who will rise to the occasion with spirit and passion.”— William Bynum
Nature
““[A] fascinating account of the complex behavioural responses that epidemics trigger among their human hosts.”— Jose Esparza
Financial Times
“Insightful.”— Andrew Jack
Laurie Garrett - The Lancet
“A riveting read.”
William Bynum - Wall Street Journal
“An invaluable portrait of the evolution of international health in recent decades. . . . We need more people like Peter Piot who will rise to the occasion with spirit and passion.”
José Esparza - Nature
““[A] fascinating account of the complex behavioural responses that epidemics trigger among their human hosts.”
Andrew Jack - Financial Times
“Insightful.”
The Lancet - Laurie Garrett
“A riveting read.”
Wall Street Journal - William Bynum
“An invaluable portrait of the evolution of international health in recent decades. . . . We need more people like Peter Piot who will rise to the occasion with spirit and passion.”
Nature - Jose Esparza
“"[A] fascinating account of the complex behavioural responses that epidemics trigger among their human hosts.”
Financial Times - Andrew Jack
“Insightful.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393063165
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/28/2012
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Piot, MD, PhD, is the director of the legendary London School of Tropical Medicine, former undersecretary general of the UN, and former director of UNAIDS. He lives in London.

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Table of Contents

Preface ix

Part 1

Chapter 1 A Blue Flask of Virus 3

Chapter 2 Adventure at Last 18

Chapter 3 The Mission in Yambuku 29

Chapter 4 Ebola 42

Chapter 5 A Pseudo Outbreak and a Helicopter 58

Chapter 6 The Big Team 77

Part 2

Chapter 7 From Ebola to Sex and the Transmission of Infection 87

Chapter 8 America and Back 100

Chapter 9 Nairobi 108

Part 3

Chapter 10 A New Epidemic 121

Chapter 11 Projet SIDA 133

Chapter 12 Yambuku One More Time 148

Chapter 13 The Unfolding of an Epidemic 166

Chapter 14 Changing of the Guard 181

Part 4

Chapter 15 An International Bureaucrat 193

Chapter 16 Sharks in the Water 214

Chapter 17 Getting the Basics Right 233

Chapter 18 The Lesson of the Chameleon/Bringing Together the Brilliant Coalition 246

Chapter 19 The Tipping Point 273

Chapter 20 The Price of Life 297

Chapter 21 A War Chest for AIDS 316

Chapter 22 An Unfinished Agenda 335

Epilogue 371

Acknowledgments 377

Index 381

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