“Tackling land-use conflicts around game parks must form part of the national strategy to stop the spread of [Trypanosomiasis, or sleeping sickness], warn doctors fighting the disease in Tanzania,” IRIN reports. According to the news service, “Tanzania’s booming tourism industry has been driven largely by its wildlife parks, which contribute almost $1.8 billion a year to the economy,” but “[a] growing number of communities find their villages ‘squeezed’ between wildlife areas, putting them at risk from tsetse flies that spread … sleeping sickness, a debilitating and often fatal disease.”
Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs)
A new project developed and launched by the Ghana Health Service (GHS) aims “to address the debilitating effects of neglected tropical diseases [NTDs] in Ghana,” the Global Network for NTDs’ “End the Neglect” blog reports. The primary objective of the project, called “End in Africa — Ghana and 2012 MDAs for NTDs,” is to implement mass drug administration (MDA) to treat NTDs and clinical management of the diseases across Ghana, the blog notes, adding that the “initiative will also provide public health education to all targeted endemic NTD communities” (2/24).
In this AlertNet opinion piece, Simon Bush, director of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) at Sightsavers, an international NGO helping people with visual impairments in developing countries, examines efforts to rid Africa of onchocerciasis — a blinding NTD. “In 1947 when Sightsavers’ founder, Sir John Wilson, coined the phrase river blindness to describe the almost unpronounceable disease, … there was little choice for those living in areas where what we now call a neglected tropical disease was endemic,” he writes, adding, “Today, although the World Health Organization estimates that 120 million people are at risk of river blindness, there is hope.”
“Decades of war, neglect, and lack of development have left South Sudan with nine out of 10 of th[e] key neglected tropical diseases [NTDs] — all but Chagas disease, which is endemic to South America,” and health workers in the new nation are hoping that the recent formation of a large public-private partnership to combat the diseases “will finally help to have an impact on South Sudan’s appalling health indicators,” IRIN reports. With only one in four people in South Sudan able to access health care, people “seek other explanations for diseases such as sleeping sickness, as they are liable to blame its symptoms on witchcraft and only seek medical attention as a last resort,” the news service writes. The nation has the highest incidence of guinea worm disease and the third-highest incidence of sleeping sickness, according to IRIN (2/23).
“Researchers say they’ve developed the first vaccine for visceral leishmaniasis (VL) — a disease that affects 500,000 people each year and has been called the ‘parasitic version of HIV,'” although the diseases are unrelated, U.S. News reports. “The vaccine took researchers more than two decades to develop and entered Phase I trials in recent weeks, according to Steve Reed, founder of the Infectious Disease Research Institute (IDRI), the vaccine’s developer,” the news service writes (Koebler, 2/22).
In this video report, PBS NewsHour’s “The Rundown” examines curable and preventable diseases such as measles and river blindness that countries are focusing more effort on fighting. Mark Eberhardt, a neglected tropical diseases expert at the CDC, and Stephen Cochi, a measles and polio expert from the CDC, “describe the diseases and why they still need attention.” “‘They are often ignored,’ [Eberhardt] told the NewsHour’s Hari Sreenivasan. ‘There was often thought to be very little that could be done for them which has led to neglect from the scientific community and even the local population,'” the news blog notes (Rogo, 2/20).
Nature reports how “[i]n the hunt for drugs that target diseases in the developing world, … [p]harmaceutical companies are making entire libraries of chemical compounds publicly available, allowing researchers to rifle through them for promising drug candidates.” The journal writes, “The latest push for open innovation, unveiled last month as part of a World Health Organization road map to control neglected tropical diseases, will see 11 companies sharing their intellectual property to give researchers around the world a head start on investigating drug leads.”
The Neglected Tropical Disease Control Program (NTD Control Program), funded by USAID and managed by Research Triangle Institute International (RTI International), has released an updated version of its NTD Funding Gap Analysis Tool (NTD-FGAT), which “helps users accurately estimate the costs and funding gaps of public health programs” and “is intended as a supplementary instrument to improve resource and strategic planning in an already existing national NTD plan,” according to the Global Network for NTDs’ “End the Neglect” blog (2/13).
The announcement at the end of January of the largest coordinated effort to fight neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) provides “more reason to hope that we may soon see a future free of these diseases,” Adetokunbo Lucas, former director of the UNICEF/UNDP/World Bank/WHO Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases, writes in a Daily Monitor opinion piece. “This new coordinated action will take these previous efforts to a whole new level,” he writes, adding, “Together, these partners have pledged to increase the supply of existing drugs and invest and collaborate on research to accelerate the development of new and better drugs.”
“The growing threat of nodding disease and increased pressure for action has spurred the Ugandan government to announce a $3 million (USD) plan to address the mystery illness,” Global Health Frontline News reports, adding, “Initial funds will be used to set up screening centers and treat those affected in Pader, Kitgum, and Lamwo districts in northern Uganda as early as this month.”