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Press release

Silent Killers: Modern Plague or Media Paranoia?

Annual Science Lecture 2006, Monday 20 November, 19.30-21.00

SARS, MRSA, bird flu, HIV… one way or another, we're all doomed. That’s if you believe recent media reports. So what is the truth? And with more and more of these diseases right on our doorstep, what are the risks? Join guest speaker Professor Nick White, a leading authority on tropical diseases, to separate the facts from the frenzy at the Natural History Museum’s Annual Science Lecture.

‘A worldwide outbreak can bring everyday life to a standstill - travel is restricted, curfews are imposed, schools and shops close down,’ said Professor White. ‘It’s no good playing down the threat of infection when we live in such a small world. Events on a chicken farm thousands of miles away could drastically affect you and your family.’

Nearly 50 years ago, the discovery of new antibiotics meant many believed we would slowly overcome the threat of infectious disease. Instead, new, deadly pandemics are emerging all around us. Far from being controlled, they are flourishing. All are highly infectious and seemingly incurable. In a time of ever-increasing biological understanding and development, why are these diseases thriving? What can we do to stop their worldwide domination?

Professor Nick White is one of the world’s top tropical disease experts and has been director of the Wellcome Trust’s Southeast Asia programme since 1986. He spends most of his time co-ordinating and conducting research in Thailand, Laos and other countries in the tropics. He has contributed to more than 800 papers, articles and books. He is a Wellcome Trust research fellow, a fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and this July became a fellow of the Royal Society. Professor White spends one month a year in Oxford doing full-time general medicine at the John Radcliffe Hospital, where he has also contributed to trials on vaccines for bird flu. He is a member of several WHO advisory panels and sits on the editorial boards of international journals including The Lancet and the Journal of Infectious Diseases. His particular interests include the study and treatment of severe malaria and the prevention of anti-malarial drug resistance.

Now in its twelfth year, the Natural History Museum's Annual Science Lecture has established itself as one of the most important forums for stimulating scientific debate. Professor Nick White follows eminent speakers such as Lord Winston, Professor John Maynard Smith, Professor Richard Dawkins, Sir David Attenborough, Bill McGuire and the Museum's senior scientists Dr Monica Grady, Professor Chris Stringer and Andy Currant.

Notes for editors

  • Winner of the 2006 Independent award for the UK’s favourite museum, gallery or heritage attraction at the Museum and Heritage Awards for Excellence, the Natural History Museum is also a world-leading science research centre. Through its collections and scientific expertise, the Museum is helping to conserve the extraordinary richness and diversity of the natural world with groundbreaking projects in 68 countries.

Event information

Date and time: Monday 20 November 2006, 19.30
Location: Central Hall
Admission: £12, concessions and Members £9, students £6
Booking: 020 7942 5555
Nearest tube: South Kensington

If you would like to interview Prof Nick White, request images or further event information, please contact the press office:
Tel: 020 7942 5654 or email us.