Claire Panosian Dunavan,
MD, FIDSA, DTM&H (London)
UCLA School of Medicine
Division of Infectious Diseases
10833 Le Conte Ave, CHS 37-121
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1688

Division office: 310-825-7225
Voicemail: 310-794-6053
Facsimile: 310-825-3632

Familial Mediterranean Fever: Rare Genetic Disease Is Often Misdiagnosed

Los Angeles Times, December 2009

One look at Ani’s swollen ankles and we knew she was in trouble.

For several years, the petite young mother had been coming to UCLA’s FMF Clinic with periodic fevers along with excruciating pain in her chest and abdomen. Now — as a urine dipstick test confirmed — her disease was also attacking her kidneys. The 4+ reading for urine protein indicated the organs were beginning to malfunction and leak serum proteins. The loss of circulating protein, in turn, explained the buildup of fluid in her extremities. If the situation wasn’t righted, fluid would eventually bloat all of her tissues.

If Ani (not her real name) had not moved from her native Armenia a decade earlier, she might never have been diagnosed with her rare, genetic disease in the first place, much less given the one drug that is guaranteed to stave off painful attacks and protect the kidneys from permanent damage.

But now she was living in Los Angeles, a city with fellow patients, savvy specialists and a large university clinic. Medically speaking, the next decision was easy. With the stroke of a pen, Ani’s daily dose of an old-fashioned anti-inflammatory drug, colchicine, was doubled.

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Claire Panosian Dunavan, MD, DTM&H (London), 2008 President of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, received her education at Stanford University, Northwestern Medical School, Tufts-New England Medical Center, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. First as Chief of Infectious Diseases at LA County-Olive View Medical Center, then as Director of Travel and Tropical Medicine at UCLA, she has been a UCLA professor, clinician, and teacher since 1984. She has also worked overseas in Haiti, Taiwan, the Philippines, Pakistan, Vietnam, Albania, Armenia, and Tanzania, among other countries.

Dunavan’s second career as a print and broadcast journalist includes 6 years as a medical editor, reporter, and co-anchor for Lifetime Television. In 1997, her interview with a dying physician won an international “Freddie” Award. In 2000, with her husband Patrick Dunavan—an 8-time Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker —she produced a television program on hepatitis B which has reached 300 million international viewers. In recent years, she has written regularly for national newspapers and magazines. She currently writes a weekly column called “The Infection Files” which runs in California newspapers. Her journalism spans issues in infectious diseases and public health affecting everyone on the planet to global health policy and economics.

© 2010 Claire Panosian Dunavan