The Fight Against Tropical Diseases: "We Are All Vulnerable"
Last week, Dr. Neeraj Mistry, Managing Director of the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) and Dr. Peter J. Hotez, President and Director of the Sabin Product Development Partnership, were interviewed by Handelsblatt, a leading German business newspaper. Mistry and Hotez had traveled to Berlin to encourage increased leadership by Germany, following the 2015 G7 meeting's strong statement of commitment to fighting NTDs.
"'German researchers were some of the first to describe and understand many of these diseases,' said Hotez. It was German doctor Theodor Bilharz who first discovered Schistosomiasis discovered in 1851. Additionally, it was in Berlin where ten years ago scientists met and came up with the idea to categorize the group of diseases that mainly affect the poor regions of Africa, Asia, South America and the Middle East, afflicting an estimated 1.9 million people.
"At that time the generic term for neglected tropical diseases was invented and the Global Network was established. 'By now it has evolved into a powerful organization with good governance,' said managing director Neeraj Mistry.
"'They are called neglected diseases because for a long time there has been little exploration for new drugs against them. 'Most tropical diseases are diseases of poverty and thus not good business for the pharmaceutical industry,' said Mistry. Since its founding in 2005, the Global Network has focused on utilizing known drugs against NTDs quite successfully: Since then four hundred million people have been helped. For example, cases of elephantiasis, a secondary disease caused by infection with a type of roundworm, have decreased by 15 percent. Similar achievements have been made with other diseases, such as river blindness, which is caused by mosquito-borne worms.
"'The job must now be completed,' said Hotez. On one hand, this would include the development of new drugs and vaccines. But equally important is a change in living conditions in poor regions of the world. And to him it is quite clear that in an increasingly interdependent world, it is in the best interest of G7 countries, including Germany."