Peter Piot

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Baron Peter Piot
Peter Piot.jpg
Peter Piot
Born (1949-02-17) February 17, 1949 (age 66)
Leuven, Belgium
Nationality Belgian
Institutions London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
Institute of Tropical Medicine Antwerp
Imperial College London
Alma mater Ghent University
University of Antwerp
Notable awards

Baron Peter Piot, MD, PhD FRCP FMedSci (born 1949) is a Belgian microbiologist known for his research into Ebola and AIDS. After helping discover the Ebola virus in 1976 and leading efforts to contain the first-ever recorded Ebola epidemic that same year, Piot became a pioneering researcher into AIDS. He has held key positions in the United Nations and World Health Organization involving AIDS research. He has also served as a professor at several universities worldwide.[1]

Education and career[edit]

Piot was born in Leuven, Belgium. He studied medicine at Ghent University, and earned an M.D. in 1974. He then began working at the Institute of Tropical Medicine Antwerp while pursuing a graduate degree in clinical microbiology from the University of Antwerp. He received a PhD in microbiology from the University of Antwerp in 1980.

In 1976, while working at the Institute of Tropical Medicine, Piot was part of a team that discovered the Ebola virus in a sample of blood taken from a sick nun working in Zaire.[2][3] Piot and his colleagues subsequently traveled to Zaire to help quell the outbreak. Piot's team made key discoveries into how the virus spread, and traveled from village to village, spreading information and putting the ill and those who had come into contact with them into quarantine. The epidemic was stopped in three months, after it had killed almost 300 people.[4] The events were dramatised [5] by Mike Walker on BBC Radio 4 in December 2014 in a production by David Morley. Dr Piot narrated the programme.

In the 1980s, Dr. Piot participated in a series of collaborative projects in Burundi, Côte d'Ivoire, Kenya, Tanzania and Zaire. Project SIDA in Kinshasa, Zaire was the first international project on AIDS in Africa and is widely acknowledged as having provided the foundations of science's understanding of HIV infection in Africa. He was a professor of microbiology, and of public health at the Prince Leopold Institute of Tropical Medicine, in Antwerp, and at the University of Nairobi, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, the Lausanne, and a visiting professor at the London School of Economics. He was also a Senior Fellow at the University of Washington in Seattle, a Scholar in Residence at the Ford Foundation, and a Senior Fellow at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.[6]

From 1991 to 1994, Dr. Piot was president of the International AIDS Society. In 1992 he became Assistant Director of the World Health Organization's Global Programme on HIV/AIDS. On 12 December 1994, he was appointed Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and Assistant-Secretary-General of the United Nations.[7] He stepped down from this role in late 2008, at which time he was replaced by Michel Sidibé.

In 2009-2010, he served as director of the Institute for Global Health at Imperial College London.[6] In September 2010, he became the director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

He is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States and the Royal Academy of Medicine of Belgium, a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of London, UK and a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences. He is the author of 16 books and over 550 scientific articles, and is fluent in English, French, and Dutch.[6]

In 2014, in the face of an unprecedented virulent Ebola outbreak in western Africa, Piot and other scientists called for the emergency release of the experimental ZMapp vaccine for use on humans before it had undergone clinical testing on humans.[8]


The latest global AIDS figures give us reason for concern and for some hope. The number of new infections rose to 4.3 million this year, at the same time 2.9 million people died of AIDS-related illnesses. Multi-drug and extremely drug resistant tuberculosis highlight new challenges in our collective response.

— Peter Piot, World AIDS Day 2006[9]

On current trends, AIDS will kill tens of millions of people over the next 20 years. But this need not happen. We know prevention works. We know that HIV treatment and care work. The global AIDS response is poised to enter a new era: where leadership and commitment are at long last matched with the resources needed to get on with the job.

— Peter Piot, 2006

It is time to increase funding. Sometimes I hear that there is "too much money for AIDS". Nothing could be further from the truth. Since the creation of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the United States President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, there has been a tremendous increase in resources for AIDS, with the results we know. But the sobering reality is that the AIDS response remains under-funded. Last year, there was an $8 billion shortfall. So if we are going to sustain the gains we have made already and not waste the investments and the results we have, if we are going to get anywhere near universal access to HIV prevention treatment and care, the world will need to significantly increase investments in AIDS.

— Peter Piot[10]

Awards and honours[edit]

Dr. Piot was appointed an Officer of the Order of the Leopard of Zaire in 1976 for his work during the Ebola outbreak, and was also appointed an Officer of the Order of the Lion of Senegal. He was ennobled as a Baron by King Albert II of Belgium, in 1995. In 2004, he was awarded the Vlerick Award and in 2013 he was awarded the Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize.[11]


  1. ^ Piot, P. (2012). No Time to Lose: A Life in Pursuit of Deadly Viruses. W. W. Norton. 
  2. ^ Pattyn, S.; Groen, G. V.; Jacob, W.; Piot, P.; Courteille, G. (1977). "Isolation of Marburg-Like Virus from a Case of Hæmorrhagic Fever in Zaire". The Lancet 309 (8011): 573. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(77)92002-5. 
  3. ^ Piot, P.; Bartos, M.; Ghys, P. D.; Walker, N.; Schwartländer, B. (2001). "The global impact of HIV/AIDS". Nature 410 (6831): 968–73. doi:10.1038/35073639. PMID 11309626. 
  4. ^ The virus detective who discovered Ebola in 1976
  5. ^ "Ebola". BBC. 
  6. ^ a b c Professor Peter Piot
  7. ^ Shetty, P. (2008). "Peter Piot". The Lancet 371 (9628): 1907. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(08)60820-X. 
  8. ^ "Three leading Ebola experts call for release of experimental drug". Los Angeles Times. August 6, 2014. 
  9. ^ Peter Piot, World AIDS Day 2006
  10. ^ United Nations General Assembly Session 62 Verbatim Report 102. A/62/PV.102 page 4. Mr. Piot Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS 10 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-08.
  11. ^ Osaki, Tomohiro. "Belgian, Ugandan win Noguchi prize," Japan Times. 2 June 2013; retrieved 2013-6-2.

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