Microbiology intrigued Ann Jerse as a student, living and learning in Terre Haute, her hometown.
Recalling an endocrinology class at Indiana State University, Jerse said, “It was just fascinating.”
That interest turned into a career as a research scientist, earning Jerse several awards and a call this spring to share her expertise at the headquarters of the World Health Organization — the high-profile international public health agency of the United Nations. Jerse traveled in April to Geneva, Switzerland, along with fellow experts in a form of epidemiology with limited public awareness but global implications. The scientists gathered with representatives of medical industries and agencies to discuss the status of vaccine development for STIs, sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes simplex virus, trichomonas and syphilis.
It’s an “ugly topic” of conversation, Jerse said, but for a scientific researcher, such microbes are “really fascinating to study.”
In her role as a professor of microbiology and immunology at the F. Edward Herbert School of Medicine at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences — the U.S. military’s medical school in Bethesda, Md. — Jerse specializes in the study of gonorrhea. That age-old disease ranks as the second-most commonly reported notifiable infection in America, and in the ranks of the U.S. armed services. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention counted 322,000 reported cases in 2011, but because the infection frequently shows no symptoms, the CDC estimates the likely number of cases to be 700,000.
Seventy percent of those involve 18- to 24-year-olds, with the numbers of men and women nearly even. “It’s a pretty equal-opportunity bug,” Jerse said. “I think it’s young girls you worry about most, and babies.” Young women, particularly, face long-term consequences to their reproductive health from undetected and untreated gonorrhea, Jerse explained, as well as babies born to them. Those women may experience chronic pelvic pain, infertility, and dangerous ectopic pregnancies.
The problem has worsened as the bacteria that causes gonorrhea has mutated into a potentially untreatable “superbug” by developing a resistance to the last remaining class of antibiotics effective against it.
A dual therapy of ceftriaxone and two other antibiotics is now used effectively. But, Jerse pointed out, “It’s just a matter of time before [the gonococcus bacteria] mutates again.” Last month, the executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors, William Smith, told NBC News that untreatable gonorrhea could reach the U.S. in “a year or two.”
The work by Jerse and the young scientists she trains at the Uniformed Services University aims to combat the persistently mutating bug, test new antibiotics and develop vaccines. The USU lab developed a pioneering mouse gonorrhea model to study the infection’s immune response. The project required extensive research, given that gonorrhea only affects humans. They found a method of inserting human genes into the mice. “It was a tough one, and people didn’t think it would work,” Jerse said.
Jerse, 54, works with a team of student scientists, just as she was at Indiana State University, earning her bachelor’s degree in medical technology in 1979, three years after graduating from Terre Haute South Vigo High School. Her schooling, which began at Maryland and Fuqua elementaries and Sarah Scott Junior High School in Terre Haute (where her parents still reside), continued after ISU as a medical technologist at Indianapolis Methodist Hospital, and Duke University Medical Center. She earned a doctorate in microbiology and immunology from the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
Jerse lives with her 12-year-old daughter in Rockville, Md., where they enjoy gardening and travel.
At the university laboratory, the researchers’ ultimate goal is a vaccine for a disease that affects thousands of U.S. service men and women yearly. The spread of the disease and its economic impact are vast. Among the civilian population in Indiana, 6,569 cases of gonorrhea were recorded by the state Department of Health last year. In terms of expense, the CDC “conservatively estimates” the lifetime cost of treating the eight most common STIs contracted in just one year at $15.6 billion. The CDC reminder, echoed and emphasized by Jerse, states that the best prevention against gonorrhea is a monogamous relationship between two uninfected partners, and that safe sex practices can prevent infection.
Public education and awareness help, too. “If you talk about it, maybe more people will know about it,” Jerse said. That sharing of information — on a expert level — was the basis of the World Health Organization consortium she attended at Geneva.
Now back at work in the USU lab in Maryland, the research goes on for Jerse and the young scientists in training. “Everybody’s a student. I’m a student,” she said. “We just learn every day, and that’s good.”
Mark Bennett can be reached at 812-231-4377 or email@example.com.
Scientists gather with medical industry reps, agencies to discuss vaccine development for STIs
Microbiology intrigued Ann Jerse as a student, living and learning in Terre Haute, her hometown.
‘Passion in the Park’ re-enacts birth, trial, crucifixion, resurrection of Jesus
Many say it is a life-changing experience that brings the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus to life. It is certainly a community effort driven by a desire of many volunteer Christians who come together to express their passion for the passion of Jesus Christ.
GRAPE SENSE: Down South America way, Andes ripe for fine wines
South American wines played a key role in revolutionizing the concept of value wines in recent years. Argentina has had great success with its seductive Malbec, earthy Bonarda and even the white difference of Torrontos.
TRIED ’N’ TRUE: Try your hand at a cup of scrambled eggs
I’m always asking for a recipe for one or two people.
But this recipe is for one. Easy to make for two. For mine I like ham, bacon or sausage, browned and drained.
Providence Food Pantry going strong after year at new location
The setup inside the building makes it feel like you’re walking into a “mom-and-pop” grocery store, with a check-in area, and aisles for patrons to walk through and eye all the food set up perfectly on tables.
Shape of an Idea: Inspiration flows from 19th-century songwriter to modern-day sculpture in his honor
As a child, Teresa Clark played near a river. A century earlier, young Paul Dresser did the same.
Their memories inspired artwork. A song Dresser wrote in 1897 flows through a sculpture Clark is now creating.
Exhibit showcases history of churches in Terre Haute
This summer everyone is invited to an old fashioned, interdenominational church summer picnic celebrating that “Old Time Religion,” as part of the Vigo County Historical Society Museum’s opening exhibit for 2014. The exhibit and associated events will take a look back at how religion has shaped the development of the Wabash Valley.
Author visits birthplace of Calvin Coolidge
Editor’s Note: Today, in this seventh and final installment of Mike Lunsford’s “New England Journal,” the writer visits a small town in south central Vermont, birthplace of the nation’s 30th President, Calvin Coolidge. Be sure to look for Mike’s regular column in Monday’s edition of the Tribune-Star.
Guiding Star: Inspired by family, Terre Haute native rallies famous names to fund cancer research
Famous people filled the Riviera Country Club, a scenic golf resort in affluent Pacific Palisades, Calif.
A city block away, Sunset Boulevard runs toward the Pacific Ocean. The Santa Monica Mountains overlook it all. Inside the Riviera, during a 2009 fundraising dinner, Terre Haute attorney Tony Tanoos found himself surrounded by a who’s who of celebrities — actors such as Ray Romano, Mark Wahlberg, Don Cheadle and others, and golfing greats like Gary Player, Johnny Miller and Rocco Mediate. Soon, the crowd of notables heard the words of main speaker Lisa Paulsen, the president of the Entertainment Industry Foundation.
MIKE LUNSFORD: The long goodbye to winter
I have no idea what the weather is to bring to us on the morning this story runs, but on the day I write most of it, the sun is shining, and we have just come off a weekend of pleasant warmth and cloudless skies.
Making Waves: Woman devotes part of rural Vigo County home to museum on hairstyling
Some studies show that women spend more than $50,000 in a lifetime and more than one month of their entire life at a beauty salon, trying to get and keep their hair just the right style. How they have accomplished this through the ages has been a fascination for local hairstylist Brenda Ellis for more than 50 years.
Heaven on Earth: Writer gets lost — both figuratively and literally — at Acadia National Park
Editor’s Note: Today, we continue the New England Journal as Mike Lunsford writes of a day hiking the Atlantic shoreline and the trails of Maine’s Acadia National Park.
Rock of Ages: Hulman Center stage has been entertaining crowds since 1974
As the stage lights came on, Sam Wellington and his cohorts gazed out at an audience of 8,060 Midwesterners.
The scene was familiar for him. Wellington and his country music quartet, The Four Guys, opened shows night after night for fellow RCA Records artists Ronnie Millsap and headliner Charley Pride on tours across North America.
Wearing a Legacy: Inspired by Debs, a variety of places and things beyond Terre Haute — from a town to beers — bear his name
A town and a school. Two styles of beer. A radio station, a street, a township, and a house for college students. Even a parade.
Any of those places or things named in honor of legendary labor and social activist Eugene V. Debs could theoretically exist in Terre Haute. Alas, none do.
Flowing forward: As Riverscape leader retires, he sees great things ahead for the Wabash River
An iconic photo of Harry Truman hangs in John Mutchner’s office.
The walls of that room and others inside Mutchner’s scenic eastside home offer glimpses of his interests, from auto racing to basketball to political history. The famous picture of a triumphant Truman, hoisting an erroneous “Dewey Defeats Truman” Chicago Tribune headline, rests neatly framed alongside a 1952 campaign button and an autographed notecard from the former president.
Hope Awakened: On a floating hospital, Terre Haute nurse sees lives of needy transformed
The woman was 24 years old. She weighed 70 pounds.
She had young children and, for a long time, a heavy burden. A tumor, large as her head, engulfed her jaw. Eating and breathing became all but impossible for her. Undoubtedly, she’d been ostracized because of it, too. Such cases are rare in the Western world, but they occur frequently in the Republic of Congo. The coastal African nation has just one doctor for every 20,000 people.
Rock Collector: Indiana Coal Council president loves rocks, fossils and 4-H
You might say Bruce Stevens grew up with lots of pet rocks.
Scavenging for rocks and fossils as a boy near his home at Coalmont launched Stevens’ fascination with geology. His love of all things sedimentary led him to a successful career in hydrology, reclamation and the coal industry.
‘Afternoon on a Hill’: The formal poet who led an informal life — Edna St. Vincent Millay
EDITOR’S NOTE: Today, we continue the New England Journal as Mike Lunsford writes of an afternoon exploring the rural gardens and home of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay near Austerlitz, N.Y. Join Lunsford in February for the sixth installment of this series as he wanders along the wooded shorelines of Jordan Pond in Acadia National Park.
No Intermission: Character meets demise on ‘Walking Dead,’ but lively acting career continues for Terre Haute’s Jose Pablo Cantillo
Characters often make dramatic exits from television shows.
Few could top Terre Haute-raised actor Jose Pablo Cantillo’s departure last month from AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”
The scene occurred in the fourth season of cable TV’s most popular drama series ever.
Telling stories in song
Pieces of Terre Haute’s infamous past gather dust in the town’s metaphorical attic. Closed-up, old baggage — forever linked, like it or not, to the historical record.
Real people lived through those times, but as generations pass, memories of those characters fade and disappear.
Effort under way to restore Civil War monument to original grandeur; ‘Soldier of the West’ unique in state of Indiana
“How sleep the brave, who sink to rest with all their country’s wishes blest.”
A lone soldier sits atop Forest Hill Cemetery in Greencastle. He is seated with his foot on a cannon of long ago, looking westward, perhaps toward the future he fought for. “He” is a stone memorial, rising nearly 30 feet in the historic cemetery. He represents all the men, young and old, from Putnam County who fought and died in the Civil War, and he is aptly titled “Soldier of the West.”
‘Worshipful, reverent’ music goal of organist who plays Friday night at Terre Haute church
To an untrained observer, a concert organ looks as complex as the controls of a jumbo jetliner.
Four tiers of keyboards, dozens of knobs (known as pistons) and two rows of foot pedals fuel the instrument’s lush sound. An organist would seem to need 10 limbs to play it.
White Violet Center to offer day of fun with nature on April 26
Live performances, demonstrations, animal programs, relaxation and other events —all specifically geared toward honoring the planet — are planned April 26, as the longest-running and largest Earth Day celebration in west-central Indiana continues at St. Mary-of-the-Woods.
‘Nomadic aural tinkerer’ Saturday Giant scheduled for Verve’s stage on May 3
The Saturday Giant, a one-man art-rock band from Columbus, Ohio, will perform at 9:30 p.m. May 3 at The Verve in downtown Terre Haute.
Swope to present work by young artists in spring exhibit
Spring brings one of the most popular yearly exhibitions at the Swope Art Museum, its annual showcase of work by student artists.
Sign up to Bowl for Kids’ Sake
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Vigo County is appealing to the community to support Bowl for Kids’ Sake, the mentoring organization’s biggest annual fundraiser, which raises money needed to carefully pair volunteer mentors with children who face adversity in staff-supported, long-term mentoring friendships.
‘90 Minutes in Heaven’ author to speak
Don Piper, author of “90 Minutes in Heaven — a True Story of Death and Life,” will speak at 7 p.m. CDT April 10 in First Baptist Church of Casey, Ill.
‘Scattered’ explores one of nature’s most powerful forces
An innovative mix of dance, theater and film explores one of nature’s most powerful forces when Motionhouse brings its show “Scattered” to Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology’s Hatfield Hall on Saturday, March 29.
‘Smokey Joe’s’ takes look into classic moment in American culture
Audiences will be rocking and rolling with “Smokey Joe’s Café” in Tilson Auditorium on Friday. The timeless musical revue is set to play one night only as part of Indiana State University’s Performing Arts Series, sponsored by Terre Haute Savings Bank.
Final Fridays: Lunes Domingo hits Abbey Road March 28
Local music collective Lunes Domingo will present its third Final Friday show at 10 p.m. Friday at The Verve, 677 Wabash Ave. Admission is $3.
Sinfonietta Pops, Crossroads of America Youth to share stage
The Sinfonietta Pops Orchestra and Crossroads of America Youth Orchestra will share the stage to perform the concert “Fortune Lost” at 3 p.m. Sunday in the Cecilian Auditorium at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.
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