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Global Health Snapshot - Neglected Tropical Diseases

Global Health Snapshot: Neglected Tropical Diseases

They disfigure, blind, disable, stigmatize and kill an estimated 1 billion people worldwide—the poorest of the poor. Yet neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) have traditionally ranked low on health agendas.

WHO’s first report on 17 NTDs—published in October 2010—rejects the notion of “waiting for the diseases to gradually disappear as countries develop.” Instead, it recommends preventive chemotherapy, intensified case management, vector control, veterinary public health, and safe water, sanitation and hygiene.

Buoyed by new interventions and research, as well as recent support from donors, pharmaceutical companies and NGOs, WHO asserts that control of NTDs is possible and elimination is a feasible goal.

Why do the diseases still exist? One reason is that they lack the attention given high-mortality diseases, says International Health professor William Brieger, DrPH ’92, MPH. “Of course, there are societal costs of disabilities, but they’re not as widely documented as deaths from HIV, TB and malaria,” Brieger explains .  

Another reason is that health services are difficult to access in remote areas and urban slums. Surgery is an option in some cases, but medical facilities and health workers are in short supply. Brieger recently returned from Chad, where there are only several hundred doctors serving 11 million people. “And about 20 percent of the health facilities are not functional,” he says. “When a situation is that extreme, how can you deliver the services?”


TrachomaA chronic conjunctivitis caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis and transmitted by contact with infected secretions.

Symptoms: Inflammation under eyelid. Multiple untreated infections can cause scarring, inturned eyelashes leading to corneal damage and, ultimately, blindness.

Treatment: Community-wide administration of single-dose antibiotics; surgery for inturned eyelashes

Prevention: Hand- and face-washing; sanitation improvements

Location: Concentrated in Africa

Prevalence: 41 million cases

Trending: Prevalence has fallen sharply since 1985 when 360 million people were infected.

Fact: Women are four times more likely to have blinding trachoma than men (largely because of frequent proximity to children, who are reservoirs of infection).

Target the Community: “Antibiotics, increased water availability and keeping face, hands and clothes clean are really what I see as the approach targets to removing infection in these communities.”

Sheila West has conducted clinical trials on trachoma treatments for the disease in Tanzania, Ethiopia and Niger.


This forum is closed
  • Phyllis Sommer

    Chicago,Illinois 05/13/2011 11:21:40 AM

    Remember Chlamydia T. is a sexually transmitted disease and any prevention & teaching needs to include that fact. Condoms are number one prevention strategy. If people are warned about infertility as result of Chlamydia,they may be more amenable to condom use since fertility is highly valued in those countries.

  • Dr. B N Patnaik

    India 01/24/2012 02:23:35 AM

    I would like to know more about your C.trachomatis trail........I am preparing documents for clinical trailof Oral HPV vaccine in India .

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