Oriol Mitjà is a 37-year-old man born in Barcelona. He is also an infectious disease physician and researcher at the Barcelona Institute of Global Health (ISGlobal), a centre promoted by the “la Caixa” Banking Foundation based in Papua New Guinea to investigate and eradicate pian, an unknown and forgotten problem in Europe. It is a contagious tropical disease with symptoms similar to leprosy caused by Treponema pallidum, a spiral-shaped bacterium that penetrates the tissues like a corkscrew as soon as it touches the skin. At first it only produces ulcers, but if it is not combatted, it ends up reaching the bone and deforming it, causing irreversible lameness. It occurs in countries with very high poverty rates that lack hygiene and sanitation.
Although there has been a solution in use since the 1950s (injections of penicillin crystals), it is very painful, children avoid it, and the logistics are very complicated. In the new line of research in which Mitjà is working, azithromycin was found to kill the bacteria in the laboratory, and it did not have many side effects. It also worked very well in practice, because children can easily take it in a single pill that costs 50 cents, plus another 50 cents for distribution.
“If these children are able to continue fighting and don’t complain even with the ulcers that are deforming them, then I have no complaints”, says Oriol Mitjà in this ALMA interview. “I’ll continue moving forward because I’m convinced that what I’m doing is right and worth fighting for.”
Mitjà is undoubtedly 100% focused on eradicating this disease. All he thinks about is this, and then he will continue fighting for other diseases that come with poverty.
You can read the whole story in ALMA, the social social network, a new digital space dedicated to society which offers a new view of the present and future of society from an optimistic, diverse vantage point, and all the stories promoted by Obra Social “la Caixa”.