“More intense rainfall, rising temperatures and climate-driven migration of human and animal populations due to repeated drought all affect the spread of tropical diseases,” Inter Press Service writes in an article examining the impact of climate change on health, a topic that “generated debate among the experts attending the 18th International Congress on Tropical Medicine and Malaria, held Sept. 23-27 in Rio de Janeiro.” “On one side of the debate stands researcher Ulisses Confalonieri, of Brazil’s state-run Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), who argues that the press often oversimplifies a very complex issue,” IPS continues, adding, “On the other side, the president of the Brazilian Society of Tropical Medicine (SBMT), Carlos Henrique Costa Nery, told IPS that ‘it is not outrageous to say that climate change has inevitable consequences for tropical diseases.'”
Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs)
The Washington Post reports on Haiti’s efforts to fight lymphatic filariasis, a parasitic mosquito-borne disease that can cause elephantiasis and is present in 80 percent of the country. Haiti’s health ministry is working to reach the country’s 10 million people with “mass drug administration” to prevent the disease, according to the newspaper, which notes IMA World Health, RTI International, and the University of Notre Dame are providing advice and a foundation associated with Abbott Laboratories is supplying salaries. “After years of mass drug administrations, nine countries — Burundi, Cape Verde, Costa Rica, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, the Solomon Islands, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago — were declared free of lymphatic filariasis in 2011 by the World Health Organization. Haiti hopes to join them,” the Washington Post writes. In a separate article, the newspaper examines how beliefs in voodoo sometimes hamper care for people with elephantiasis, and it provides a fact sheet on the infection and other neglected tropical diseases, as well as a photographic slideshow (Brown, 9/30).
To commemorate its fifth anniversary PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) on Thursday “compiled editorials and research papers published over the last five years to create a collection called ‘The Geopolitics of NTDs,'” the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases’ “End the Neglect” blog reports. “The collection focuses on the geographic distribution of NTDs by region, inspiring readers to think about the significant regional differences among NTDs and the populations they impact,” according to the blog (Harvey, 10/26).
“This past June, more than 100 participants gathered in Accra, Ghana, for the Regional Stakeholders’ Consultative Meeting on Neglected Tropical Diseases hosted by the WHO-AFRO to discuss the challenges, resources requirements, and goals to controlling and eliminating Africa’s NTDs,” the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases’ “End the Neglect” blog reports. “Immediately following that meeting, NTD program managers met at the Annual Regional NTD Program Managers Meeting, where they discussed the recently finalized multi-year integrated NTD control and elimination plans, a huge step towards controlling and eliminating NTDs in the region,” the blog writes, noting, “Though still in draft form, the Accra Call to Action called for increased political support for NTD control, and invited partners in all sectors to contribute resources to this effort” (Jarrett, 10/9).
In a guest post on USAID’s “IMPACT Blog,” Rachel Cohen, regional executive director of DNDi North America, writes, “The United States government and its country partners should be commended for the tremendous achievements in the fight against neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) as part of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) NTD Program” and the National Institutes of Health. “However, not all NTD research is created equal,” she writes, adding, “Beyond basic research, much more research and development (R&D), including late-stage product development, for new drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics is urgently needed for those NTDs where adequate tools do not exist.” Noting that African sleeping sickness, Chagas disease, and kala azar (visceral leishmaniasis) “are not yet included in the USAID NTD Program,” Cohen says “greater commitment to developing new NTD treatments and other tools is sorely needed if disease control or elimination is to be achieved” (9/18).
“While Ebola continues to kill in the Democratic Republic of Congo, an outbreak of the virus in neighboring Uganda appears to be coming to an end, the World Health Organization said Monday, reporting that no new cases of the deadly virus had been confirmed in Uganda for a month,” the Los Angeles Times’ “World Now” blog reports. “The Ugandan outbreak was first declared by its health ministry in late July, spurring health officials and the president to warn Ugandans against handling dead animals and burying those who might have died from the virus,” the blog writes, noting, “Since the Ugandan outbreak began, 24 people are believed to have suffered from the virus, including 17 who died, the United Nations agency said.” However, “neighboring Congo is still grappling with a separate outbreak of the virus,” the blog adds, writing, “As of late August, the Congo outbreak had sickened 24 people and killed 11 more in the northeastern region of Province Orientale” (Alpert, 9/3).
The “growing public health problems” of West Nile and dengue viruses in the U.S. can “serve as opportunities to pull the U.S. squarely into the global fight against these mosquito-borne viruses,” a Bloomberg View editorial states. “The two illnesses have come to the U.S. courtesy of climate change and globalization,” the editorial notes, writing, “No vaccines, no cures and no specific medicines exist to prevent or treat dengue or West Nile.” It continues, “That is not uncommon for illnesses that predominantly affect the developing world,” as “[c]ompanies with the know-how to develop such products have generally lacked the profit motive to make the necessary investments, given that sales would be mainly in poor countries.”
The Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) “is planning to boost support for medical research, technology and innovations,” as well as “encourage collaboration and capacity building aimed at poverty-related and neglected tropical diseases,” SciDev.Net reports. The agency’s draft Medical Research Strategy for the Pacific “outlines how AusAID will support research both at the ‘preventative end and at the curative end’ to create new medical products such as diagnostics, drugs or vaccines, and to improve the clinical treatment of people in poor communities” and “says there are hardly any financial incentives for commercial investment in diseases affecting the poor, who bear the biggest burden of disease,” according to the news service. “The strategy fits within the Australian government’s overall policy of making aid more effective,” SciDev.Net states, noting an AusAID spokesperson based in Canberra said, “Practical research will help inform where and how the resources of Australia and its partners can be most effectively and efficiently deployed” (Jackson, 9/10).
“The Kenyan government has launched guidelines for the treatment and prevention of visceral leishmaniasis, also known as kala azar or black fever, in a move government officials say is meant to contain the parasitic disease, which is endemic in the northern region of the country,” IRIN reports. “The new guidelines call for, among other things, the use of rapid diagnostic test kits, mobile test centers and the distribution of insecticide-treated mosquito nets in areas where the disease is most prevalent,” the news service writes, adding, “The treatment has also been reduced from a 30-day single-dose treatment to a 17-day double-dose injection.” “‘These guidelines will ensure that early diagnosis of kala azar is done so that those infected can get timely and effective treatment,’ Shahnaz Sharif, the director of public health, told IRIN,” the news service notes (9/27).
“A bipartisan pair of senators is expanding an existing working group on malaria issues to become a congressional caucus that will focus on efforts to combat 17 tropical diseases including malaria,” CQ HealthBeat reports (Adams, 9/21). Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) last week “announced that the Senate Working Group on Malaria would join its counterpart in the House of Representatives by adding neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) to the group’s agenda,” the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases’ “End the Neglect” blog writes, noting the announcement was made at “a special Congressional Reception celebrating the progress of USAID’s NTD Program” (Garlow, 9/21). At the event, “USAID and more than 40 non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, global health and civil society groups, and pharmaceutical companies gathered in the Russell Senate Office Building to celebrate the numerous successful partnerships that have led to advances in NTD treatment and control,” the blog states in a separate post (Garlow, 9/21). CQ HealthBeat notes, “Although a working group is similar to a caucus, the senators hope that making the group an official caucus will show their colleagues that it is a permanent coalition” (9/21).