NTDs in the Heart of Darkness: The Democratic Republic of Congo's Unknown Burden of Neglected Tropical Diseases
Friday, July 26, 2013
PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases
In an op-ed published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, Dr. Peter Hotez calls for improved disease surveillance in order to understand the total reach and severity of NTDs in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Democratic Republic of Congo may have one of the world's highest burdens of neglected tropical diseases, but nationwide there is a dearth of surveillance activities and available epidemiologic data about these conditions.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) is a vast nation of almost one million square miles (about the size of Greenland or one-quarter the size of the United States, and the second largest country in Africa) and more than 70 million people located in the heart of Africa. For at least the last hundred years, the neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) have made a significant impact on the history of the Congo Basin. Despite a navigable river system, early European attempts to explore the Belgian Congo during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were blocked because of the high prevalence of human African trypanosomiasis (HAT) and other NTDs. Indeed, the horrific effects of epidemic sleeping sickness were described in detail by Joseph Conrad in Heart of Darkness.