Fighting Infections through Research, Science and Technology (FIRST) Phase 1 and 2: Creating a Partnership to Fight Neglected Infectious Disease in Mesoamerica

Investigator: Jaime Sepulveda, MD, DSc, MPH
Sponsor: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Location(s): Belize; Costa Rica; El Salvador; Guatemala; Honduras; Mexico; Nicaragua; Panama


The FIRST (Fighting Infections through Research, Science, and Technology) program aims to speed the development of new tools and technologies that will address three diseases that place a huge health and economic burden on neglected populations in Central and South America: Chagas’ disease, dengue and onchocerciasis.
Led by scientists at UCSF Global Health Sciences, UC Berkeley and partner institutions, the two-year project will focus on the Latin American region known as Mesoamerica, which comprises the Southern state of Mexico and Central America from Guatemala to Panama. A significant population, mainly of indigenous descent, live in poverty in these countries, making them vulnerable to illness and death.
By developing and testing a set of affordable new tools, drugs, and prevention campaigns, the FIRST program will not only contribute to preventing, diagnosing and treating tropical diseases, but can also serve as a model for other regions of the world affected by the same ailments.