- The Washington Times - Monday, May 7, 2001

The Gates Foundation today plans to announce it is awarding its first $1 million prize for global health to a former U.S. military hospital in Bangladesh for its discovery of a simple cure for dysentery that has saved the lives of millions of children since 1965.
A leading cause of death in most of the world where there is no source of clean drinking water, is dysentery. The International Center for Diarrheal Disease Research (ICDDRB) in Dhaka, Bangladesh started as a U.S. military research laboratory working on how to keep American GIs healthy in the Vietnam War.
Its scientists discovered that a scoop of sugar plus a pinch of salt in a quart of water can prevent death from dehydration — a therapy now used across the developing world.
"The ICDDRB is a groundbreaking laboratory and research center that is responsible for saving an estimated 25 million children over the last decade," said Nils Daulaire, president of the Global Health Council, which selected the center for the Gates award.
The annual number of child deaths from diarrhea fell from 4 million to 1.5 million a year because of the oral rehydration therapy that the Dhaka center discovered.
The standard diarrhea treatment in most developing countries today is to dissolve small packets of glucose citrate and sodium bicarbonate with a scoop of sugar in about a quart of water, said Mr. Daulaire, former chief international health specialist at the U.S. Agency for International Development.
The research center in Dhaka began as a military research hospital in the 1960s when the United States, Pakistan and other anti-communist allies belonged to the now-defunct Southeast Asia Treaty Organization. Bangladesh was then still part of Pakistan.
It continued to be run by the U.S. military after 1973 when Bangladesh became independent and then became an international institution based in Dhaka and at a field site.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been endowed with $21 billion by the Microsoft founder, making it the largest philanthropic foundation in the world, said Mr. Daulaire. The Gates prizewinner was selected after the Global Health Council studied 150 groups nominated for their work in the field of international health.
Mr. Daulaire, who began his own career as a pediatrician 30 years ago in Thailand and Africa, said that "kids with severe diarrhea would lose so much fluid so quickly they would shrivel up and die."
"A child that loses 10 percent of its bodily fluid goes into shock and cardiac arrest. This solution basically took the place of intravenous solutions, which are hardly ever available in the Third World."
The ICDDRB will use the money to upgrade research facilities that currently employ 1,500 people, including scientists from around the world.


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