Photo: Courtesy of Murdoch Childrens Research Institute

If fate had been kinder to Ruth Bishop, she might have enjoyed the rare satisfaction of discovering what causes one of the world's deadliest infectious diseases, and the means to prevent it. She helped accomplish the first feat with remarkable ease almost 30 years ago, but as she nears the end of a distinguished medical research career, its sequel remains maddeningly elusive.

Now 69, Bishop is self-effacing about the headway she and her small research team at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, have made into understanding the role that rotaviruses play in severe gastroenteritis. Rotaviral gastroenteritis kills as many as 2,000 children daily.

Her modesty and aversion to publicity have left Bishop little known outside her field. But Sir Gustav Nossal, president of the Australian Academy of Science, regards her as one of his nation's most esteemed researchers. As director...

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