Environmental Epidemiology in Latin America (2014-2015)

The objective for this Bass Connections project team was to further our understanding of epidemiological risk factors associated with endemic infectious diseases as well as the emergence of chronic diseases in the Madre de Dios Region of the southern Peruvian Amazon. This project was part of a multiyear study to understand population and environment dynamics occurring along both a newly developed highway and a watershed undergoing heavy gold mining operations. These large-scale development changes interact with household livelihood choices to alter the risk profile of families and individuals living in the region. In addition to these developments, a recent land concession for oil exploration has been granted, centrally located in the study site. Similarly to the rapid changes caused by highway construction and ongoing gold mining, oil development has the potential to have a lasting and wide impact on social, environmental and health characteristics of the region. 

Therefore, this Bass Connections project team continued the work of engaging and educating communities and families regarding good health practices; conducting research to better understand risk factors for infectious and chronic diseases as well as toxicological exposure (e.g., mercury, arsenic, selenium, mostly due to gold mining); and improving our understanding of biogeochemical cycling (e.g., in air, soil and water) and the bioaccumulation of toxic metals in food (focusing on mercury). Team members were trained in epidemiology, hydrology, land use/land cover change (remote sensing), toxicology, nutrition and biogeochemical cycling. Activities included a seven-month training program in North Carolina (November-May), followed by 8-10 weeks in the Peruvian Amazon. Team members spent the summer researching vector-borne diseases and the health impacts of mercury exposure. The team also partnered with the Peruvian Ministry of Health to give presentations to children on nutrition, dental hygiene and handwashing.


November 2014 – Summer 2015

Team Outcomes

Axel J. Berky, Emily Robie, Susy Navio Chipa, Ernesto J. Ortiz, Emma J. Palmer, Nelson A. Rivera, Ana Maria Morales Avalos, Joel N. Meyer, Heileen Hsu-Kim, William K. Pan. 2022. Risk of lead exposure from wild game consumption from cross-sectional studies in Madre de Dios, Peru. The Lancet.

William Pan, Amarakaeri Reserve Health Impact Assessment ($1,927,130 grant awarded from the Hunt Oil Company, 2014)

2015 Bass Connections Environmental Epidemiological Research in the Peruvian Amazon (poster by Anthony Saxton, Austin Peer, Justin Lana, Madison Krischak, Margot Neveaux, Sarah Nuss, Wanbing Gu)

Assessment of Two Diabetes Point-of-care Tests in the Peruvian Amazon (poster by Anthony Saxton and William Pan)

This Team in the News

From Improv to Book Design, Five Faculty to Broaden Skills through New Grant Program

Global Research Partnerships in Peru

Duke Study in Peru Yields Unexpected Discoveries

They’re Going Door to Door in the Amazon to See Why People Get Sick

See related teams, Environmental Epidemiology in Latin America (2013-2014) and Environmental Epidemiology in Latin America: Leishmania (2015-2016)

Team Leaders

  • Marco Marani, Nicholas School of the Environment-Earth and Climate Sciences
  • William Pan, Nicholas School of the Environment-Environmental Sciences and Policy

/graduate Team Members

  • Justin Lana, Environment-PHD
  • Anthony Saxton, Global Health - MSc

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Madison Krischak, Biology (BS)
  • Margot Neveaux
  • Sarah Nuss, Biology (BS)
  • Austin Peer, Biology (BS), Global Health (AB2)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Ernesto Ortiz, Duke Global Health Institute
  • Jennifer Swenson, Nicholas School of the Environment-Environmental Sciences and Policy

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Peru Ministry of Health
  • US Naval Medical Research Unit-6 (NAMRU-6)