“The World Health Organization reports Guinea worm disease, which has plagued people for thousands of years, is on the verge of eradication,” VOA News reports. “The U.N. agency says fewer than 400 cases of the infectious parasitic disease exist in four African countries, and that it will soon become only the second, after smallpox, to be wiped off the face of the earth,” the news service writes (Schlein, 8/28). “The number of Guinea worm disease cases has dropped from 3,190 in 2009 to just under 396 cases during the first six months of 2012, according to the [WHO],” the U.N. News Centre notes, adding, “Gautam Biswas of WHO’s Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases told a news conference in Geneva … that aggressive public health and hygiene awareness among the communities where the disease is still endemic is vital to eradicating it” (8/28).
Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs)
The Washington Post examines global efforts to eradicate Guinea worm disease, writing, “The parasitic infection which has sickened millions, mostly in Asia and Africa, is on the verge of being done in not by sophisticated medicine but by aggressive public health efforts in some of the poorest and most remote parts of the world.” According to the newspaper, “hundreds of thousands of volunteers” have contributed to fighting the waterborne parasite, by handing out filtered drinking straws or treating water sources with larvicide, among other efforts. “As a result, the ailment, also known as dracunculiasis, is poised to become the second human disease (the first was smallpox) to be eradicated — and the first to be eliminated without the aid of a vaccine,” the Washington Post continues.
This post in the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases’ “End the Neglect” blog, part of a six-part series of blog posts covering interesting elements of the Nicaragua experience highlighted in the case study entitled “Worms and WASH(ED),” examines how the country’s “history in ensuring a national deworming program has shed light on the potential for success.” According to the blog, “[f]ormer Global Network intern, Frankie Lucien, and fellow George Washington University Masters student, Cara Janusz, traveled to Nicaragua and investigated the challenges and achievements of the Nicaragua experience and developed a case study with support from Children Without Worms” (Mayer, 8/21).
“On Wednesday, July 25, the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases [NTDs] co-chaired a panel at the [XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012)], addressing the link between NTDs and HIV/AIDS,” the network’s “End the Neglect” blog reports. During the session, titled “Effective Solutions to Combat HIV: Increasing Evidence of the Impact of Neglected Tropical Diseases on HIV Transmission and Disease Progression,” “members of the panel presented current research that has been conducted in Uganda and Brazil suggesting pathogenic links between NTDs such as schistosomiasis, Chagas disease and leishmaniasis and HIV transmission and disease progression,” the blog notes (7/26).
In this post in the Results for Development Institute’s “Center for Global Health R&D Policy Assessment” blog, Aarthi Rao, a program officer at the institute, examines whether corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs within Indian pharmaceutical companies can help fight neglected diseases. “Corporate giving amongst Indian pharmaceutical firms is still in its infancy and will likely evolve in the coming years as the industry continues to grow,” the she writes, adding, “As the breadth of social initiatives increases, it will be interesting to watch whether the social arms of firms will join their business counterparts in increasing the availability of neglected disease technologies” (7/23).
Ghana “will contribute about $1 million towards the prevention and control of endemic neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in order to protect the gains made by the country in Guinea worm eradication and the elimination of trachoma,” the country’s health minister announced on Monday at the opening of a Regional Stakeholders’ Consultative Meeting on NTDs, PANA/AfriqueJet reports. Health Minister Albin Bagbin “also called on African countries to support interventions to address NTDs and improve coordination among all stakeholders in implementing NTD programs,” the news agency writes.
With the disease burden of AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria expected to make up less than 15 percent of the total disease burden in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) by 2030, and non-communicable diseases to account for nearly 40 percent of the total in the region, “[a] revision of the approach to research and health care in SSA is therefore urgently needed, but international donors and health communities have generally been slow to respond to the changing environment,” Ole Olesen and M. Iqbal Parker of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in South Africa write in a commentary in Tropical Medicine & International Health. “Private and public funding for health research in Africa remains therefore disproportionately focused on the three major infectious diseases, whereas only smaller amounts have been allocated to confront other diseases,” they write and provide examples.
“The Intellectual Property & Science division of Thomson Reuters [on Tuesday] announced the publication of a new study tracking the current status of research on neglected tropical diseases [NTDs],” a Thomson Reuters Corporation press release reports. “The Global Research Report Neglected Tropical Diseases analyzes research output across countries and fields from 1992-2011 and finds a two-fold increase in published literature focused on a group of diseases identified by the World Health Organization as underserved by public health services,” the press release states, adding, “Despite these recent gains, the total research output is still significantly less than that of ‘first world’ diseases” (6/19).
The END7 campaign, a global advocacy campaign run by the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) “to raise awareness of the seven most common NTDs and cultivate the resources necessary to end them by 2020,” is launching a tweet chat series on Twitter, which aims to bring global health non-governmental organizations together “to ask questions and share tips on social media,” a post in the Global Network’s “End the Neglect” blog reports. “We’ll have a special guest for each session and a topic of conversation,” the blog notes, adding, “Our first series is Thursday, June 14th at 2:00 EST and features Mo Scarpelli,” a Brooklyn-based filmmaker and multimedia producer, who will “help us discuss how to use multimedia for effective storytelling” (Patel, 6/13).
“Brazilian researchers say they have successfully tested a vaccine against schistosomiasis, a disease caused by parasitic worms that afflicts more than 200 million people worldwide,” Agence France-Presse reports. Researchers from the Oswaldo Cruz Institute in Rio de Janeiro “said it had successfully tested the vaccine in humans, but that more testing would be required in areas where the parasite is most common, mainly in Africa and South America,” the news agency writes. Institute researcher Tania Araujo-Jorge said she hopes the vaccine will be available for distribution within three years, according to AFP (6/13).