“A vaccine against one of the most neglected yet fatal tropical diseases is being tested for the first time in a clinical trial in India and the U.S.,” IRIN reports. Visceral leishmaniasis (VL), “also called kala-azar or black fever, infects an estimated half million persons or more annually,” and “[i]t is found most commonly in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Brazil and Sudan,” the news service notes. “A total of 72 volunteers are participating in the trial, but scientists say it will take years of testing to roll out an affordable vaccine to the 200 million people globally at risk of VL infection,” IRIN writes, adding, “The WHO has warned that VL is spreading to previously unaffected countries due to co-infections of HIV and leishmaniasis, while the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said climate change can also spur the spread of the disease” (5/9).
Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs)
The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases’ “End the Neglect” blog examines the fight against neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in Burundi, writing, “In 2007, the Legatum Foundation, an international private investment organization that promotes sustainable development throughout the world agreed to fund the treatment of NTDs in Burundi and brought together several partners to assist Burundi’s Ministry of Health.” The blog notes, “It has been over five years since the Burundi NTD Control Plan was implemented, and its success is visible throughout the country” and provides a link to the network’s “A Better Future for Burundi” video, “which highlights all the accomplishments in controlling NTDs in Burundi” (5/4).
“Chagas disease — a parasitic infection transmitted through an insect commonly known as the ‘kissing bug’ — is one of the most common infections among pregnant women in the Western Hemisphere,” Peter Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and director of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, writes in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. “It can be found all over Latin America, from Mexico and Central America to Paraguay and Argentina,” he writes, adding, “For expectant mothers, what makes Chagas disease especially harmful is that it can be passed to their unborn children, causing highly lethal congenital infections.”
On Tuesday, “the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases [NTDs], in partnership with the Embassy of South Africa, hosted a panel called ‘Integrated Approaches to Health and Development through NTD Control,'” according to the network’s “End the Neglect” blog. “The Global Network’s managing director, Dr. Neeraj Mistry, moderated the panel and hopes the discussion will improve awareness of and support for solutions to NTDs, diseases that have often been ‘hidden in the shadows,'” the blog writes, noting panelists included Peter Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute; Jennifer Kates, vice president and director of global health and HIV policy at Kaiser Family Foundation; and Ok Pannenborg, former chief health adviser for the World Bank Group (Garlow, 5/9).
The Huffington Post is running “a series of blogs by leading NGOs to call attention to a range of issues that should be raised at the G8 summit at Camp David in rural Maryland from May 18-19,” according to the news service. The following summarizes some of the posts published this week.
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).
“Over a billion people, one in every six people living on this planet, suffer from one or more neglected tropical diseases, or NTDs,” a VOA editorial states, noting, “These usually treatable and preventable diseases include schistosomiasis; elephantiasis; trachoma; Chagas disease; river blindness; leprosy; kala-azar, dengue, black fever and other forms of leishmaniasis; and the three most common infections — the soil-transmitted parasites hookworm, roundworm and whipworm.”
The National Center for Advancing Translational Science (NCATS) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced a pilot program under which “three pharmaceutical companies have agreed to make dozens of their failed compounds available to researchers, who will investigate if the compounds can be re-purposed into successful treatments for other diseases,” Ashley Bennett, senior policy associate at the Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC), writes in the group’s “Breakthroughs” blog. “With this new therapeutics program, NIH and NCATS have created an exciting, innovative model for collaboration between the public and private sectors. … Now NCATS must ensure that research for neglected diseases is encouraged and supported through this initiative,” Bennett says (5/7).
Economic Transformation In Latin America An Opportunity To Improve NTD Strategies, DNDi Regional Director Says
“The rise of emerging economies in Latin America is an opportunity to improve strategies for fighting neglected illnesses and increase the region’s contribution to the global struggle against them, says” Eric Stobbaerts, the Latin America director of the independent Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), Inter Press Service reports. “Our region is going through a major transformation in economic and social terms,” Stobbaerts told IPS after a meeting on “Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases” (NTDs) held in London on January 30, “mentioning the progress that has been made in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile and Mexico,” IPS writes.