Can America cope with a resurgence of tropical disease?
Carrie Arnold takes an in-depth look at the impact of inequality and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in the southern United States. While NTDs are often considered diseases that only afflict populations in developing countries, this story captures an emerging trend: prevalence rates of NTDs have also increased in many impoverished communities within affluent nations.
The article, originally published in Mosaic Science, references a paper by Sabin Vaccine Institute President, Dr. Peter Hotez, which estimates that 2.8 million African Americans suffer from toxocariasis, a parasitic disease caused by roundworm. Another study showed that one of every 6,500 people who donated blood in the U.S. tested positive for Chagas disease. Undiagnosed NTDs could be an important factor to understanding why people remain trapped in poverty.
"In 2014, Hotez proposed that some of the educational and economic disparities experienced by poor African Americans might be partially due to toxocariasis. These difficulties, in turn, make it harder for people to find steady employment and well-paying jobs as adults. This means their children are also likely to grow up poor, continuing the cycle for another generation.
"'So many of these neglected tropical diseases are not acute infections like…the flu or common cold,' Hotez says. 'Many are chronic, debilitating conditions that mimic non-communicable diseases… If somebody has epilepsy, they don’t think of cysticercosis… If a child tests poorly in school, the paediatrician or nurse practitioner won’t think of toxocariasis.'"