Washington, D.C. October 27, 2009--A new analysis in the open-access journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, reveals that disabling, debilitating and sometimes deadly neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are devastating the member nations of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). The OIC is comprised of 57 nations and serves as the “collective voice of the Muslim world.”

In addition to several prosperous oil- and gas-producing nations in the Middle East, the OIC nations also include some of the poorest countries in the world as well as middle-income countries with large areas of poverty. Worldwide, NTDs impact more than 1.4 billion people living on less than $1.25 a day, trapping them in an endless cycle of poverty and suffering.

Specifically, the analysis found that:

• Intestinal helminth infections – The OIC nations account for up to 40% of the global burden of intestinal helminth infections, also known as intestinal worms. Children harbor the largest number of intestinal worm infections, resulting in stunted growth and developmental delays and overall, between 200 and 300 million people living in OIC countries are infected with one or more intestinal helminths. Approximately one-half of those cases occur in Indonesia and Bangladesh, two of the most populous OIC countries, followed by Nigeria and other African nations. High rates also occur in Malaysia.

•Schistosomiasis – Schistosomiasis is the most common NTD in the Islamic world. Almost one-half of the world’s schistosomiasis infections occur in OIC nations, especially in Nigeria, Mozambique, Burkina Faso, Mali and Cote d’Ivoire. According to some estimates, the disease burden resulting from schistosomiasis may exceed that of malaria.

•Blinding trachoma – Approximately 21% of the world’s cases of blinding trachoma occur in OIC countries. It exhibits the highest prevalence in the Sahelian countries of Sudan (almost 4 million cases); Niger (2 million); and Burkina Faso and Mali (1 million).

•Leprosy – Approximately 20% of the world’s 213,000 registered cases of leprosy occur in OIC nations.

Additionally, Dr. Peter Hotez, author of the study, noted that many of these NTDs occur in settings of conflict and, perhaps, may also “promote conflict through their destabilizing effects on human populations, agriculture and economic productivity.” Dr. Hotez comments that most of the NTDs in the region could be controlled, or in some cases eliminated, through mass drug administration estimated at 50 cents per person, per year.

“A comprehensive assault on NTDs represents one of the most cost-efficient mechanisms to improve health among the poorest people living in OIC countries and to simultaneously lift them out of poverty,” said Peter Hotez MD PhD, Distinguished Research Professor and Walter G. Ross Professor and Chair of the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Tropical Medicine at George Washington University, Co-founder of the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, and President of the Sabin Vaccine Institute. “NTD control may also serve to reduce tensions and conflicts in highly endemic OIC countries. Joint action between the G8 countries and prominent families and governments in the Persian Gulf, together with technical assistance by WHO and advocacy and resource mobilization by the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases would represent an impressive beginning.”

About the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases
The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, a major initiative of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, is committed to raising the profile of neglected tropical diseases and leveraging international resources to end suffering and death through effective, low-cost treatments. www.globalnetwork.org

About Sabin Vaccine Institute
Sabin Vaccine Institute is a 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 stuck 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. For more information about Sabin’s research and commitment, visit: www.sabin.org .

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