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To study vs to destroy

June 1, 2012 - 15:09 -- Ricardo Ataide

At the moment I'm waiting at Boston's International airport for a flight to Detroit to visit a friend, but in a couple of days I'll be back here to participate in a Malaria Eradication Course at Harvard's school of public health. I just browsed through the names and positions of the participants enrolled in the course and got a chill... Not many of us doing research will be there. 

Let me explain why I got a chill. I have the feeling that among all the NGO, government organisations and funding agencies representatives there, the few that, like me, are active malaria researchers will appear to be the evil scientists that always have a role in all Bio-horror movies. You know... The ones that always try to sneak a bit of alien eggs or gooey stuff and end up being the bad guys because they thought it was worthwhile to study that organism and not just blast it off the screen with napalm. That makes me wonder... How much of me wants the parasite eliminated and how much wants to know the parasite in detail? Maybe I'm alone in this dilemma, but honestly, it is hard. Of course I want malaria eradicated, or else I wouldnt have enrolled in this course, but I also want to study how the parasite adheres to the host's tissues, the kind of molecules it uses, how the immune system fights that and what damages are done.

How can I conciliate both of these urges? 

How do you?