WBAMC doctor researches disease affecting soldiers overseas

Capt. Edgie-Mark Co is working with collaborators to research Visceral Leishmaniasis, a parasitic disease affecting some soldiers in the Middle East.

The Army is one step closer to combating a disease that can affect our soldiers.

It’s called Visceral Leishmaniasis.

Capt. Edgie-Mark Co is a third-year internal medicine resident at William Beaumont Army Medical Center.

He said he and his collaborators started looking into the disease as a part of his mandatory research project.

"It can manifest into a more deadly disease,” he said. "This particular disease can cause these, but the problem is, it can hide in those who are affected."

He said patients can have the disease and not know.

So, he is working to learn more about it.

"Its a parasitic disease that you get from a sand fly,” he said.

He won first place in the Army American College of Physician’s Research Competition for his work.

“This disease is affecting our service members who have been deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom,” he said.

He said people in the Middle East can get Visceral Leishmaniasis, which means our troops are at risk, too.

"In the population that we looked at here at Fort Bliss, about 10 percent of those we surveyed have some evidence of the disease,” he said.

Co told KFOX14 that about 0.01 percent of those who have it will feel the effects of the parasite.

He said normally, symptoms won’t show up until something else causes a problem first, such as another stresser.

"It can cause different disease manifestations to include fevers, organ dysfunction and some, a rash,” he said.

Right now, Co said there are more questions than answers.

"There's a lot of things that we need to still look into,” he said.

But, the Army captain said the research is personal for him.

"I mean, I feel like I am personally vested in looking into whether this affects not only me, but those that I've served with as well,” he said.

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