Global Trends in Neglected Tropical Disease Control and Elimination: Impact on Child Health
Drs. Gregory Simon, Neeraj Mistry, and Peter Hotez's article on NTD impact on child health appeared in the BMJ journal
The neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a group of 17 lesser known chronic infections which predominantly affect poor and disenfranchised communities. There are a number of NTDs that cause significant global morbidity in children, including the three major soil transmitted helminth (STH) infections (ascariasis, trichuriasis and hookworm infection), schistosomiasis and trachoma. These NTDs, together with lymphatic filariasis and onchocerciasis, are currently being targeted for global control and elimination through mass drug administration (MDA) campaigns. They represent the most common NTDs and share significant geographical overlap. Additionally, many individuals are polyparasitised with more than a single NTD. Integrated NTD control and elimination MDA programmes offer safe and efficacious treatments for all seven NTDs. However, the current global level of MDA coverage for the leading childhood NTDs, that is, STH infections, schistosomiasis and trachoma, remains well under 50%. Limiting factors for global coverage include insufficient global financial support, drug donation capacity of pharmaceutical companies and targeting school age children to the exclusion of other age groups in need of treatment, such as preschool age children. There is also a need for development of novel prevention and treatment modalities, such as next-generation small molecule drugs and vaccines. Efforts are underway to harness the momentum of a 2012 London Declaration on NTDs and a 2013 World Health Assembly (WHA) resolution as a means to control or in some cases eliminate by 2020 these NTDs that affect children worldwide.