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Guantanamo Bay detention camp should be converted into a biomedical research institute dedicated to combating the diseases of poverty in the Western hemisphere, says Peter J. Hotez.

In an editorial in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, he says the move would tap into the tradition of vaccine diplomacy that began 50 years ago — when Moscow and Washington put aside ideological differences to collaborate on the development of a live polio vaccine at the height of the Cold War.

Similarly, developing new drugs and vaccines needed in "America's backyard" — possibly in cooperation with Argentina, Brazil, Cuba and Mexico — would promote clinical research and take control of pressing health threats in the region, many of which are neglected diseases.

An initiative could eradicate lymphatic filariasis and schistosomiasis in the Caribbean "and forever wipe out an important element of slavery's legacy". The institute could also take on important diseases among economically disadvantaged minorities in the United States, such as cysticercosis and leptospirosis.

Reinventing the prison could help change America's reputation in the region, says Hotez, and show that it sincerely wants to address the Millennium Development Goals in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Link to full article in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases