Annie Sescleifer, a 2105 Biological Sciences graduate with a minor in International Development Studies, is volunteering with the Haiti Program for a year before she goes on to medical school and a career in medicine and global health. Sescleifer met program founder Rev. Thomas Streit when she was a freshman, and he advised her capstone project that studied the effectiveness of fortified salt to fight lymphatic filariasis (LF) in a region of the Dominican Republic with a high population of Haitian immigrants.
In her first months in Haiti, Sescleifer worked with fellow Notre Dame graduate Aaron Steiner to develop a business proposal for introducing fortified salt to three districts, called communes, where LF is endemic. She is working retired Cargill Salt Vice President Jim Reimer on using iodine-fortified salt in school lunches to boost health. The salt, called Bon Sel, is fortified with both iodine and a medication ingredient to fight the parasite that causes LF, a debilitating condition also called elephantiasis.
In another project, Sescleifer conducts xenomonitoring, collecting mosquitoes from communes and inspecting them for parasites to compare with LF rates found by studying individuals’ blood samples. Results can help guide whether mass drug administration or salt distribution would be more effective in those areas, where both are now used. The World Health Organization has set a
goal of eliminating LF by 2020.
“I was really interested in was working with the Haiti program because it’s not just dealing with acute infections that’s are going to come back, says Sescleifer, who has also worked in Uganda and Nicaragua. “You’re looking at elimination and eradication of a neglected tropical disease.”