Peter Piot, also called Baron Peter Piot, is a Belgian microbiologist, born in Leuven in 1949.
He grew up in a rural village in Flemish Brabant, and very early on he was interested in science and disease. It’s no surprise that he first studied science and then medicine at the University of Ghent.
Baron Peter Piot
The discovery of the Ebola virus
Peter Piot is best known for his discovery of the Ebola virus, a disease that causes hemorrhagic fevers. That is, the patient’s organs start to bleed inside the body.
He was the first to isolate the virus from this serious illness in 1976 in a blood sample from a nun who had stayed in Zaire, what we call today, the Democratic Republic of Congo. He was then only a young research assistant at the time, working for the Prince Leopold Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp.
After this discovery, he was sent to Zaire with a small group of doctors to study the epidemics in that country.
Ebola virus seen under a microscope
Peter Piot also worked on the AIDS virus
While known for his discovery of the Ebola virus, Peter Piot is also known for his research on AIDS. In 1978, he received a scholarship to work at the University of Washington in Seattle on sexually transmitted diseases.
Returning to Belgium in 1980, he became interested in patients from Central Africa. Strangely, he notes that these patients have the same symptoms as some patients he encountered while in the United States (USA). By continuing his research and making points of comparison between the various patients in the USA and Africa, he comes to the conclusion that the AIDS virus was not transmitted between homosexual people, but to all people.
Thanks to his research, he became a specialist recognized by all and quickly developed strategies to prevent the spread of the AIDS virus.
From 1991 to 1994, he chaired the International AIDS Society, in other words, an international AIDS organization. But that’s not all, because in 1992 he also became the associate president of an AIDS organization of the World Health Organization (WHO). Finally, from 1995 to 2008, he would become executive director of the UN department that is fighting the spread of AIDS.
February 17th 1949