Friday, 13 February 2009

Neglected tropical diseases

Distant places - forgotten lives

This is the list of diseases which are covered by the Neglected Topical Diseases Department of the World Health Organisation.

Buruli Ulcer
Chagas disease
Human African trypanosomiasis
Lymphatic filariasis
Soil transmitted helminthiasis
Neglected zoonotic diseases

One of these, human African trypanosomiasis, also known as sleeping sickness, is caused by parasites called trypanasomes. The parasites enter the body from tsetse fly bites. During Stage 1, they stay in the bloodstream. At this stage fever, headaches, joint pains, and itching may occur. It can be cured but is rarely diagnosed. During Stage 2 it enters the nervous system and is fatal without treament. Until now the treatment for Stage 2 has been very toxic and hard to administer.

The disease has been recorded as occurring in 36 countries, all in sub-Saharan Africa. It is endemic in southeast Uganda and western Kenya and kills more than 40,000 Africans a year

This is a video from BBC World showing the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo at the moment.

Every day, over 35,000 people die from AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, and most neglected diseases such as kala azar, Chagas disease, and sleeping sickness. They die needlessly. Huge advances in science and technology have helped reduce the infectious disease burden in developed nations. But for the poor and neglected, the current model of drug development has not brought the hope of new medicines and diagnostics. The poor cannot pay premium prices for their treatment so no drug company will develop the cures that the poverty stricken developing world needs.

One of the organisations working on tropical neglected diseases, including sleeping sickness, is DNDi, the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative. It was established by:
  • Médecins sans Frontières has directly witnessed the human cost of the lack of drugs for neglected diseases;
  • the Pasteur Institute in France;
  • the UNDP/World Bank/WHO’s Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases works on 10 neglected infectious diseases that affect poor and marginalized populations;
  • the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation;
  • the Indian Council for Medical Research;
  • the Kenya Medical Research Institute;
  • the Malaysian Ministry of Health.
DNDi works to develop new drugs or new formulations of existing drugs for patients suffering from the most neglected communicable diseases. DNDi’s success depends on support from foundations, governments and individuals.
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