May 25, 2010
Although advances in the control and elimination of neglected infections have been steadily increasing in the past decade—specifically with heightened interest by policy makers, governments, the World Health Organization (WHO), and private philanthropies—more can and must be done, says a new editorial, “‘Manifesto’ for Advancing the Control and Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases,” published May 25 in the open-access journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases.
In the eight-point “manifesto” for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), co-authors Peter Hotez, President of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Distinguished Research Professor of The George Washington University Medical Center, and Dr. Bernard Pécoul, Executive Director of the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), outline reasons why the global community should increase financial support for NTD control and elimination efforts and for research and development.
Specifically, the manifesto states that:
- All NTDs are “tool ready” with interventions such as drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics that could be implemented now, even if for some diseases such tools are far from being perfect.
- All NTDs are also “tool deficient”, signifying that existing tools are incomplete or inadequate, and significant investments in research and development (R&D) are required to develop new generation tools in order to achieve sustainable disease control and elimination.
- All 14 NTDs are “most neglected.” NTDs have received little attention from the international community during the past ten years despite their large disease burden.
- There is a profound human rights dimension to NTDs. Increasing evidence indicates an association between NTD prevalence and conflict and violation of human rights.
- NTDs destabilize societies and their effect on agricultural productivity and food security may explain the high geographic overlap between NTDs and recent conflict.
- Sustained involvement by the WHO and other international health agencies is crucial for current and future NTD control and elimination efforts.
- Building health systems under the leadership of health ministries in disease-endemic countries and the communities is a high priority. Moving forward through a global strategy combining access and innovation. Achievement of Millennium Development Goal 8 (“develop a global partnership for development”) will require that stakeholders—health ministries, affected communities, public–private partnerships, large and small non-governmental organizations, etc.—establish a well-functioning international strategy for NTD control.
According to the authors, tackling the issue of NTDs will have an impact on other global health crises and be an agent to achieving various Millennium Development Goals.
“[NTD control] activities have facilitated the delivery of additional interventions such as insecticide-treated bed nets, antimalarial drugs, micronutrients, and childhood immunizations,” Hotez and Pecoul say.
The authors conclude by urging scientists working on NTDs to collaborate more and identify funding opportunities, to identify the most cost-effective interventions, and to research and develop new tools.
“By highlighting important challenges and opportunities in the fight against NTDs, this ‘manifesto’ calls on the global community for urgent, renewed, and innovative efforts.”
About Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs)
The World Health Organization describes NTDs as a group of 14 parasitic and bacterial infections that are a symptom of poverty and disadvantage affecting over 1 billion people—one sixth of the world's population. They include: Buruli ulcer, Chagas disease(American trypanosomiasis), Dengue/dengue haemorrhagic fever, dracunculiasis (guinea-worm disease), fascioliasis, human African trypanosomiasis, leishmaniasis, leprosy, lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis, soil transmitted helminthiasis, snakebite, trachoma, and yaws. Those most affected are the poorest populations often living in remote, rural areas, urban slums or in conflict zones. With little political voice, neglected tropical diseases have a low profile and status in public health priorities. Although medically diverse, neglected tropical diseases share features that allow them to persist in conditions of poverty, where they cluster and frequently overlap. They blind, disable, disfigure, stigmatize and kill their victims, trapping them in a cycle of poverty and disease. Research shows that treating NTDs lifts millions out of poverty by ensuring that children stay in school to learn and prosper; by strengthening worker productivity; and by improving maternal and child health.
About Sabin Vaccine Institute
Sabin Vaccine Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to reducing human suffering from infectious and neglected diseases. Through its efforts in vaccine research, development and advocacy, Sabin works to provide greater access to vaccines and essential medicines for millions mired in pain, poverty and despair. Founded in 1993 in honor of Dr. Albert B. Sabin, discoverer of the oral polio vaccine, the Sabin Vaccine Institute works with prestigious institutions, scientists, medical professionals, and organizations to provide short and long-term solutions that result in healthier individuals, families and communities around the globe. www.sabin.org
About The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases
The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, is an advocacy and resource mobilization initiative of the Sabin Vaccine Institute dedicated to raising the awareness, political will, and funding necessary to control and eliminate the seven most common neglected tropical diseases (NTDs): trachoma, soil-transmitted helminths (hookworm, ascariasis, trichuriasis), onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis, trachoma, and lymphatic filariasis. www.globalnetwork.org