Typhoid Past and Present - Workshop report

Oxford Martin School Fellows Dr Claas Kirchhelle and Dr Samantha Vanderslott organised a two-day interdisciplinary workshop: Typhoid – Past and Present on 14 and 15 June at Oxford University’s History of Science Museum and St Cross College. The workshop was generously funded by HEFCE’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and brought together a diverse group of historians, social scientists, medical scientists, industry partners, and policymakers to provide new perspectives and insights on typhoid’s different faces over time and the global challenges of its control.


Day one focused on the history and current context of typhoid.  Linking past and present examples of typhoid control, participants discussed the impact of sanitary interventions, vaccines, and chemotherapy on typhoid incidence since the 19th century and novel threats posed by growing antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Interdisciplinary case studies included typhoid campaigns in Oxford and the US, typhoid interventions by British and French military authorities, recent typhoid outbreaks in Nepal, a microbiological analysis of resistance factors in typhoid, and an overview of the problems of accurate typhoid diagnosis in low-income countries like Sierra Leone.


Day two concentrated on the envisioned challenges of rolling out the new typhoid conjugate vaccine (TVC) and the future of global typhoid control. Case studies included typhoid outbreaks on Pacific islands, changing typhoid incidence rates as a result of economic development in Vietnam, anti-typhoid programmes in Malawi and Bangladesh, and an overview of current WHO and Gates Foundation strategies to curb typhoid. Also discussed were methods used to estimate the incidence of typhoid fever models for transmission dynamics of typhoid, as well as ethical, social, and political challenges posed by control strategies and the introduction of new vaccines.


By fusing perspectives from the medical humanities and sciences, the workshop highlighted the need for further interdisciplinary collaboration to holistically assess the long-, medium-, and short-term social and biological aspects of typhoid and of other global health challenges.


Mengge Chen, MPhil Student in HSMT, July 2018