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International Foundation of Microbiology

A Statement of Purpose


Riaz-ul Haque, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Microbiology

University of Illinois at the Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois USA

And Founder International Foundation of Microbiology

The INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION OF MICROBIOLOGY is a non-profit organization of young microbiologists based in Chicago who are deeply concerned over the increasing prob­lems of public health and sanitation now threatening large urban centers in the United States, as well as other parts of the world. In America and other techno­logically advanced nations, a major portion of the population is negligent of cultivating simple habits of personal and environmental hygiene and cleanliness. This negligence combined with the migration of workers to urban centers and the consequent problems of housing and merging the outsiders with the urban dwellers is increasing the chances for spread of infectious diseases. As a consequence many acute and chronic infections are coming back among the urban populations. Lack of proper awareness of the public has already led to an increase in venereal disease and, as the information gap between the public and the health agencies widens, diseases like tuberculosis and rheumatic fever, which hit hardest among the poor, may also increase.

There is also a sad disregard on the part of the public in general and the disad­vantaged sectors of the public in particular of the necessity of vaccination and maintenance of reasonable levels of immunity through booster injections. The general level of immunity of the older members of the population against many communicable diseases is, therefore, very low. And with increasing travel among the different nations of the world, the public in the advanced nations is in constant danger of serious epidemics of the horrible diseases like smallpox.

The situation is even more critical in the developing nations. In addition to the above noted problems, diseases like smallpox, cholera, plague, typhoid, dysentery, malaria, and yellow fever are still taking their toll. The crops are destroyed by rodents and by harmful microorganisms, and families are broken by the rife of infectious diseases. Such disasters take the joy out of living and of course lead the bereaved families to a life of dejection and misery.

It is our belief that these problems of public health can be adequately tackled only if the public has some first-hand information of the ubiquity of microorganisms, their means of transmission from person to person, and the simple precautions needed to prevent their transmission. Persons unaware of these fundamentals and unappreci­ative of the reality of microorganisms are less likely to appreciate the benefits of personal hygiene and the preventive measures available to them against infectious diseases. Also, not appreciating the cause and affects of infectious disease, they are less likely to seek proper care and guidance in time.

The public should be made aware of these fundamentals not just through talks emphasizing hygiene which invariably leave impressions no more than lasting than foot prints on the sand but through experience. This experience we provide by unveiling before the public the unseen world of microorganisms.

We work primarily with young people and show them live microorganisms from their own mouths under a phase contrast microscope, and then allow them to grow micro­organisms from their body surfaces and cavities and from their environments on nutrient media. Both of these demonstrations impress upon them the reality of microorganisms and many puzzling predicaments of health and disease become clear to them.

The rest of the program is designed to motivate the participants toward personal hygiene, prevention of infection, and seeking treatment in time when disease is contacted. We emphasize control of respiratory, intestinal, and venereal diseases, as well as rodent and insect control, proper handling and preparation of food, vaccination, and like subjects. We also emphasize the beneficial activities of microorganisms, thus giving the participants a balanced and meaningful concept of the role of organisms in their well-being.

The actual sight of organisms from one's own mouth is an experience whose effective­ness is not limited to any group, but we have found it especially useful in teaching disadvantaged children, whose need is greatest and who are often the most difficult to reach because of the lack of reinforcing experiences in their home environment. We have seen many children who have not brushed their teeth for as long as five days become devout oral hygienists after seeing what dwells in their mouths.

Until now we have been presenting our program to youngsters through settlement houses in the Chicago area. Although this practice has been fruitful, we feel that we can be more useful by establishing centrally located offices in various cities where the public and especially the youngsters can come to us for vivid, practical instruction in microbiology. These offices will also work closely with public and private schools in the United States to help introduce fundamental microbiology as a com­pulsory subject at the freshman level. Trained teachers are needed for initiating such a program, and the offices of the Foundation will provide adequate training to the teachers either directly or through teachers' training colleges.

These proposed centers will make it possible for us to add to our activities the training of young people from the disadvantaged classes of America in the profession of microbiology. Such trained personnel are urgently needed in food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries, in hospitals, and in diagnostic and research laboratories. The difficulty in changing the course of life of a disadvantaged child is not just with finding him a job, but with finding him the kind of job which will offer him the potential of growth and advancement. Microbiology as a profession can offer such advancement. There is no barrier. It is even ideally suited for handicapped individuals who can perform useful activities with their hands while confined to a wheelchair.

After cultivating effective programs to tackle problems at home, we wish to extend our activities overseas and help set up effective teaching programs in microbiology in the underdeveloped countries of Asia, Africa, and South America. Thanks to modern emphasis on education and to the work of many missionaries, schools are now available even in remote jungles. And, thanks to the realization by local popula­tions that education is the key to the transformation of e lives of their children more and more parents are sending their children voluntarily to the existing schools. We are proposing that the subject of microbiology be taught as a compulsory subject in the language of the respective countries at various levels of learning. This approach will teach these children something worth taking home to enlighten their parents also.

Equipped with the basic knowledge of microbiology, the public in various countries of the world will voluntarily seek the benefits of various programs of public health available to them through local, national, or international agencies of health.

It is hoped that all interested microbiologists and public spirited individuals, both here at home and abroad, will join us in working toward the fulfillment of the proposed goals. With the increasing population the problem gets more complex each day. Rapid action is a must.

September 1967