Meningitis #371

May 27, 2016

This week we're talking about meningitis and legal issues surrounding parents and standards of care. We speak with three members of The Maiden Lab, a multidisciplinary group working on understanding the biology of bacterial pathogens, including meningitis. From their team we were joined by Martin Maiden, Professor of Molecular Epidemiology in the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford; Charlene Rodrigues, Wellcome Trust Clinical Doctoral Fellow at the University of Oxford; and Kanny Diallo, a Wellcome Trust Training Fellow working on her PhD at the University of Oxford, who studies ecology and molecular epidemiology in the African Meningitis Belt. Nicholas Little, the Center for Inquiry's Vice President and General Counsel, returns to talk about a recent court case involving the death of a young child from bacterial meningitis, and the parents who were charged with "failing to provide the necessities of life". We also chatted with Christie Wilcox, a science blogger and one of the editors of the new book "Science Blogging: The Essential Guide".


  • Martin Maiden
  • Charlene Rodrigues
  • Kanny Diallo
  • Nicholas Little
  • Christie Wilcox
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Guest Bios

Martin Maiden

Martin Maiden is Professor of Molecular Epidemiology in the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford. He is a Fellow of Hertford College Oxford, and holds a Fellowship of the following institutions: Royal College of Pathologists, Royal Society of Biology, and The American Academy of Microbiology. Currently, he holds a visiting Professorship in the Department of Biosciences at the University of Cardiff. His research team has, for more than 20 years, concentrated on the investigation of the phenotypic consequences of bacterial pathogen diversity, principally using nucleotide sequence-based analyses. Currently he is developing population genomics approaches to these questions, establishing links between genetic traits identified by means of next generation sequencing technology with defined bacterial phenotypes.

Charlene Rodrigues

Charlene Rodrigues is currently a Wellcome Trust Clinical Doctoral Fellow at University of Oxford, UK. She has practised as a medical doctor for nine years and is now specializing in paediatric infectious diseases in the UK. Having seen the wide-ranging spectrum of disease caused by meningococci in children in the hospital environment, she became interested in the underlying genetic differences in both host and bacterium. Her current research includes studying the genetic diversity of disease-causing meningococci in the UK between 2010-15.

Kanny Diallo

Kanny Diallo obtained her BSc. and MSc. in biochemistry at McGill University where she applied different molecular biology techniques to study host pathogen interactions and the innate immune responses to bacterial infections. After graduating she moved to Mali and joined the Center for Vaccine Development in Bamako as a Research Assistant where she worked on the African Meningococcal Carriage Consortium project. Kanny is now a Wellcome Trust Training Fellow working on her DPhil at the University of Oxford under the supervision of Professor Martin Maiden and Professor Samba Sow. She is studying the ecology and molecular epidemiology of Neisseria species in the African Meningitis Belt with a particular interest in understanding the genetic determinants of the meningococcus virulence.

Nicholas Little

Nick Little is the Center for Inquiry’s Vice President and General Counsel. Nick holds a law degree from Vanderbilt University School of Law, in addition to a B.A. in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from Oxford University, and an M.A. in Industrial Relations from the University of Warwick. He oversees the Center's litigation, with a dual focus on protecting the separation of church and state, as well as seeking to ensure that true science, not pseudoscience or invented 'facts' are used to justify public policy. Nick also provides general advice on legal matters impacting the Center.

Christie Wilcox

Christie Wilcox, PhD, is a biologist and science writer. She has blogged about science since 2008, and currently pens Science Sushi for Discover Magazine and tweets as @NerdyChristie. At five years old, she told her teacher she liked to "open the mouths of dead geckos to look at their tongues"—an obsession with animals that has only deepened. You can read all about her adventures in her upcoming first popular science book, "Venomous: How Earth's Deadliest Creatures Mastered Biochemistry".