Infectious Disease Patterns in the Waorani, an Isolated Amerindian Population

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  • Research Service, U.S. Veterans Administration Medical Center, and University of New Mexico Affiliated Hospitals, Division of Immunology, Duke University School of Medicine, Summer Institute of Linguistics, Clinical Serological Laboratory, Duke University Medical Center, Laboratory of Infectious Diseases, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Virology Division and Parasitology Division, Bureau of Laboratories, Center for Disease Control, Public Health Service, U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87108, Ecuador
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The Waorani Indians of eastern Ecuador provide a unique opportunity for studying exposure of an isolated human population to various infectious disease agents. Using serologic tests to determine antibody prevalence, skin test data, and stool examination for parasites, we have been able to construct a profile of infectious diseases which are endemic, and others which have been introduced into the Waorani population. These findings are compared with similar data reported from elsewhere in the Amazon. Serologic studies demonstrating the presence of antibody to measles and poliovirus type 3 after vaccination indicate that the Waorani respond normally to viral challenge with these agents. The question of genetic inability among aboriginal Amerindians to respond to viral agents is discussed. Finally, general recommendations are made regarding the future health care of the Waorani.