July 27, 2010
To take full advantage of recent increased financial commitments from some governments, international agencies, and philanthropies, accurate and up-to-date mapping of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) needs to be implemented to help improve the precision of decision-making in NTD control and elimination, says a new editorial, "The Global Atlas of Helminth Infection: Mapping the Way Forward in Neglected Tropical Disease Control," published July 27 in the open-access journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases.
"Better diagnostic tools and new methods of surveillance provide more affordable and realistic opportunities to improve the planning, monitoring, and evaluation of NTD control," write authors Dr. Peter Hotez, President of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Distinguished Research Professor of The George Washington University Medical Center, Dr. Simon Brooker, Reader in Tropical Epidemiology and Disease Control at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Research Fellow at KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme in Nairobi, Kenya and Professor Donald Bundy, Coordinator of the Africa Program for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC) and Program Leader in Maternal and Child Health, Population and Nutrition, Africa Region, The World Bank.
The authors assert that, in the past, NTD control has been incomplete and unreliable because of weak disease surveillance systems, and that a "new generation of diagnostics provides a sound foundation for developing reliable, up-to-date maps of the distribution of different NTDs to guide and target resources efficiently. Without such maps, the journey of NTD control will be difficult."
New mapping technologies utilize electronic data entry at the point of collection and rapid transmission of information to a central database using mobile phone technology. Once the data have been compiled, geographical information systems (GIS) simultaneously manage and display the data and include estimates of such variables as temperature, vegetation, and humidity, which affect NTD distribution.
Although many surveys of NTDs have been conducted, the most detailed maps are for onchocerciasis, lymphatic filariasis, and schistosomiasis. These maps are an important resource, but much of their data are old and not easily accessible to policy-makers and managers of public health programs.
The authors highlight a project, the Global Atlas of Helminth Infection (GAHI), which will provide open-access information on the distribution of soil-transmitted helminthiases and schistosomiasis. The GAHI will also highlight the geographical areas where further survey information is required via the GAHI website (http://www.thiswormyworld.org.)
The authors conclude that the development of an integrated Global NTD Atlas for all NTDs would increase the reliability of estimates of disease burden, measure the impact of NTD control efforts, and provide an important planning tool for national control programs.
NTDs are a group of 13 parasitic and bacterial infections that are the most common afflictions of the world’s poorest people They blind, disable, disfigure and stigmatize 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 the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases
The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, a major program of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, is an advocacy and resource mobilization initiative dedicated to eliminating the most common neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Through a network of partnering international agencies, scientists and advocates, the Global Network aims to raise the awareness, political will, and funding necessary to control and eliminate the seven most common NTDs that afflict and stigmatize 1.4 billion of the world’s poorest people. www.globalnetwork.org
About Sabin Vaccine Institute
Sabin Vaccine Institute is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organizations of scientists, researchers, and advocates dedicated to reducing needless human suffering from infectious and neglected tropical diseases through prevention and treatment. Sabin works with governments, academic institutions, scientists, medical professionals, and other non-profit organizations to provide short and long-term solutions for some of the globe’s toughest health care challenges. Since its founding in 1993 in honor of the oral polio vaccine developer, Dr. Albert B. Sabin, the Institute has been at the forefront of global efforts to eliminate, prevent and cure infectious and neglected tropical diseases by developing new vaccines, establishing international networks, and advocating for effective and efficient delivery of preventions and treatments to the world’s poor. www.sabin.org