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Leprosy doctor dies at the age of 100

Leprosy kills an estimated 20,000-30,000 people annually.
Leprosy kills an estimated 20,000-30,000 people annually.
Photo by China Photos/Getty Images

Dr. Jacinto Convit García, a Venezuelan physician and scientist, known for developing a vaccine to fight leprosy, as well as fighting different types of cancer has passed away at the age of 100.

Leprosy, which has afflicted mankind for thousands of years is a 'chronic infection caused by mycobacterium leprae and mycobacterium lepromatosis bacteria, resposible for two separate strains of the disease. Although initial infections may remain without symptoms 5-20 years, when they do develop they include granulomas of the nerves, respiratory tract, skin and eyes. Although now treatable, WHO estimates that leprosy still kills at least 20,000-30,000 people throughout the world each year.

The leprosy vaccine is based on the idea that cancerous cells appear and propagate because the body does not detect them. A sample of the tumor combined with formalin and BCG marks the malignous cells so the immune system reacts and attacks the cancer.

Born in Caracas September 11, 1913, Convit attended the Medical school at Central University of Venezuela, where he received his medical degree in 1938 before moving on to work at Columbia University in New York City during the 1940's, as well as Case Western Reserve University in Stamford, OH. He also taught at the University of Miami and Stanford University in the 1960's, before founding the Institute of Bio Medicine in his home city. He continued to work there until the end, completing his 300th scientific paper in 2013. The Institution receives fellows sent by the WHO/PAHO from America, Africa and Asia.

Convit was elected president of the International Leprosy Association (ILA) in 1968, and was re-elected in 1973. He was also designated as Director of the Cooperartive Center for the Study and histological Classification of Lebrospy by WHO (World Health Organization) in 1971, before being elected Director of the Pan American Research and Training in Leprosy and Tropical Diseases five years later.

Among the many honors bestowed upon him for his work, Dr. Convit was presented with Spain's Prince of Asturias Award in the Scientific and Technical Research category in 1987, and was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1988 for his anti-leprosy vaccine. He was also awarded with more than 45 orders of honor by Venezuelan and several foreign universities

In addition to developing his leprosy vacine, Convit also successfully developed a new cancer vaccine intended to fight colon, stomach and breast cancer in 2007.

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