1913 - 2014

Tropical medicine

Stigma and isolation remained a common burden for people with leprosy (Hansen’s disease) in the 1930s in Venezuela, when the physician Jacinto Convit Garcia, working at the Leprosy Clinic of Cabo Blanco, led a change in the healthcare of these patients by replacing isolation with ambulatory treatment. At the time, Chaulmoogra oil (Ball Method) was the only treatment and there was urge for improvement. Soon, sulfones and derivatives broke through for treatment of leprosy.

Jacinto Convit implemented educational trainings about leprosy, including disease description, health education and methods for control. This initiative was later on reproduced for other communicable (infectious) diseases, like the parasitic diseases leishmaniasis and onchocerciasis.

He was a member of the World Health Organization and leader of several institutions for surveillance, healthcare, and public health for infectious diseases, and specially leprosy. On top of his medicine training, he trained in epidemiology and biostatistics.

Seeking to better treat leprosy, he developed a pioneer immunotherapy. This combined a bacteria (leprosy bacilli) obtained from armadillos and the tuberculosis vaccine (Bacillus Calmette-Guérin, BCG) as adjuvant. Additionally, a similar method was later on used for leishmaniasis.

During the last years of his live, he researched cancer.

Jacinto Convit Garcia died in Caracas, Venezuela, at the age of 100.

Written by: Enriqueta Vallejo-Yagüe.