a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


Different ethnic groups' reactions to disease exposure in Suriname


A trip to the interior of Suriname
Baruch Blumberg Physician
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

So we worked there and the plan was we were going to do public health surveys. So we did a survey of intestinal bacteria and amoebae and so forth, and then we did a study of filariasis, that's Wuchereria bancrofti and that causes elephantiasis, the disease elephantiasis, very common in Suriname, still is. And there’d just been... there wasn’t a... there was a kind of preventative, hetrazine, that you could use to treat the carrier state. Now there’s some interesting features. There is a carrier state for filariasis, and a very large percentage of the population actually carry the microfilaria, that are part of their kind of reproductive process and... and some of these people go on to get diseased, but not all and it's usually caused by the lodging of the... of these filaria, I mean they are just submicroscopic, in the lymph nodes and you get terrible swelling of the legs and of the genitalia sometime and it... it's pretty...  pretty disfiguring and scary. It’s still very common by the way. So we did a survey there - the first survey that had ever been done - and then we did a... a trip down into the interior of the country, down one of these rivers. And that was really exciting. Before we went, we... we had to get a... a canoe, you know. Now the canoes they have there are made from a single log and they’re...   there they’re called corrials, and there are similar names elsewhere, and so we went down and picked out the log that would be big enough and we came back four or five weeks later, three weeks later, and they'd dug it out. And you put water in it and put rocks, hot rocks and then you can push it out and you can bend it, you put some boards alongside to increase, you know, the waterline, the free board, and we had... we had a crew of four paddlers, we had an outboard motor we could use in the flat parts and then there was myself and a classmate of mine who joined me later, and... Jack McGiff and then the doctor there, was... his name was Guicherit, he was a Suriname-trained physician, trained in the sort of Dutch school, a very able guy. He was the only doctor in the hospital. So we became really good friends as you might imagine and then we paddled up the... up the river. And you have to go through, there are big rapids there, there's a kind of a, what's the right term? A... well there are... all the north-south flowing rivers have an... you have to go over an escarpment, so it's pretty fast-flowing and pretty rocky, and the only people who could negotiate those rapids were the boatmen who were... who were Djukas, D-J-U-K-A-S, so Djukas were the descendants of rebelled slaves. And there was a... there were big sugar plantations in Suriname that go back to the 17th century. As a matter of fact, some of the earliest sugar growing in the... in the Americas started in Suriname. And a lot of, you know, colonists came there and they set up these plantations and imported slaves. They initially tried to use the Indians, the local South American Indians, but they, many of them died, of course. And then they imported large numbers of slaves from Africa, and... but they had a slave rebellion - the first successful, it was a successful one. You know, during the slave period, in the colonial period in the United States and elsewhere, there was always this fear of slave rebellions, and the Suriname slave rebellion was always... it entered into political discussions in the United States by the way, at the time of the writing of the Constitution... all these issues about banning slave trade, which they didn't do, banning slavery, which didn't happen and the insurrection in Suriname, and of course the one in Haiti, made a big impact. But, so these Djukas had... had won the war against the Dutch and against the mercenaries the Dutch had hired, and they had kingdoms. There were five kingdoms. So we were going down to the capital of the Paramaccans and we... it took us four or five days to go through the rapids and... and get up to this capital city of Langatabbetje, which means Long Island, and had a big powwow with them, I mean, it’s one of many I've had since then. You’d...you’d have a kind of an appointment to get there, you know, sometime, you're sort of [unclear] and an hour or two after that, and everybody is sitting on stools and they offer something to drink and it ends up long conversation, and they... finally, you know, they... we had an agreement that we would be able to collect blood from them. And we provided... and we set up a clinic and so on, they had never seen a... a western doctor. We did a lot of teeth pulling by the way; that was one of the major problems there, they had terrible abscessed teeth and that was really bad news.

American research physician Baruch Blumberg (1925-2011) was co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1976 along with D Carleton Gajdusek for their work on the origins and spread of infectious viral diseases that led to the discovery of the hepatitis B virus. Blumberg’s work covered many areas including clinical research, epidemiology, virology, genetics and anthropology.

Listeners: Rebecca Blanchard

Dr Rebecca Blanchard is Director of Clinical Pharmacology at Merck & Co., Inc. in Upper Gwynedd, Pennsylvania. Her education includes a BSc in Pharmacy from Albany College of Pharmacy and a PhD in Pharmaceutical Chemistry from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. While at Utah, she studied in the laboratories of Dr Raymond Galinsky and Dr Michael Franklin with an emphasis on drug metabolism pathways. After receiving her PhD, Dr Blanchard completed postdoctoral studies with Dr Richard Weinshilboum at the Mayo Clinic with a focus on human pharmacogenetics. While at Mayo, she cloned the human sulfotransferase gene SULT1A1 and identified and functionally characterized common genetic polymorphisms in the SULT1A1 gene. From 1998 to 2004 Dr Blanchard was an Assistant Professor at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. In 2005 she joined the Clinical Pharmacology Department at Merck & Co., Inc. where her work today continues in the early and late development of several novel drugs. At Merck, she has contributed as Clinical Pharmacology Representative on CGRP, Renin, Losartan, Lurasidone and TRPV1 programs and serves as chair of the TRPV1 development team. Dr Blanchard is also Co-chair of the Neurology Pharmacogenomics Working Group at Merck. Nationally, she has served the American Society of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics on the Strategic Task Force and the Board of Directors. Dr Blanchard has also served on NIH study sections, and several Foundation Scientific Advisory Boards.

Tags: Suriname, Djukas, Paramaccans, Langatabbetje

Duration: 6 minutes

Date story recorded: September 2007

Date story went live: 28 September 2009