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Azithromycin Reduces Childhood Mortality in Sub-Saharan Africa, World Malaria Day & Other NTD News

News roundup

This news roundup is a collection of headlines and other items on neglected tropical diseases, and does not reflect the work or the views of the Neglected Tropical Diseases Support Center.

Mosquitoes vs Sharks

Partners like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation celebrated World Malaria Day on April 25th, raising awareness about progress and challenges to reaching the goal of malaria elimination.

Lymphatic filariasis

Foot washing: An ancient practice provides dignity and healing to those with NTDs

Stephanie Palmer
RTI International
Washing another’s feet is considered an act and symbol of humility and service. Pope Francis regularly washes the feet of the migrants, refugees, and prisoners he meets. It can also be an act of ritual purification: an ancient practice, foot washing is a part of the ablutions worshippers in many faiths perform before praying even today. In this case, the washing exercise was part of a lymphedema management training for clinical health workers in Adama, Ethiopia.

Filariasis patients in Telangana to get Rs 1,000 as pension

Telananga Today
Following the announcement of Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao on providing financial support to Filariasis patients, health authorities on Thursday issued an order announcing pension of Rs 1,000 per month for them. According to health officials, there are nearly 60,000 patients in the State falling under Grade I, II and III categories of the ailment, of which nearly 40,000 patients fall under Grade II and III and are eligible for pensions. The total budget allocated for implementation of the scheme is Rs 48 crore (approximately $7 million USD).

Haitian Ministry of Health Deploys Strategy Against Filariasis

The Ministry of Public Health and Population of Haiti announced today that they will deploy a strategy to fight against lymphatic filariasis throughout the national territory. Lauré Adrien, director of the health entity, said they will massively distribute medicines, one of the preventive treatments endorsed by the World Health Organization, as well as ensure the care of people with clinical signs of the disease, so alleviate their suffering.


Elimination of onchocerciasis in Ecuador: findings of post-treatment surveillance

Ángel Guevara et al.
Parasites & Vectors
Three years after the cessation of ivermectin treatment in 2012, as defined by the WHO guidelines for onchocerciasis elimination, blackfly collections were done in four sentinel sites in former hyperendemic areas. Our data indicate that transmission of O. volvulus has been stopped in all endemic areas in Ecuador, including all satellite foci outside the main focus. These findings indicate that a strategy of ivermectin distribution twice a year to over 85% of the treatment-eligible population was effective in eliminating the infection from Ecuador.


Schistosomiasis: Young children can develop disease quickly, but existing diagnosis methods and treatments are effective

Outbreak News Today
Infants in some of the world’s poorest regions are vulnerable to a common worm parasite infection and their treatment should become a priority, according to a study. Regular testing and treatment of pre-school children for snail fever – known as schistosomiasis or bilharzia – would reduce the spread of the disease, while promoting childhood health and development, experts have found.

Using Remote Sensing Methodologies to Combat Schistosomiasis in Northern Senegal

Caitlin Wolfe, Chris Haggerty and Jason Rohr
Technology Networks
In Senegal, WHO estimates MDA coverage of the at-risk population <10%. Previously, teams in Ghana and Morocco demonstrated that removal of certain aquatic vegetation decreased the prevalence of schistosomiasis in nearby villages. Literature indicates certain types of vegetation are significantly associated with snail presence – this held true in northern Senegal data.

[BLOG] February in Zimbabwe

Janice Murray
Parasite Immuno-epidemiology Group
February in Zimbabwe is considered to be the rainy season and this year the rainy season was living up to its name. Rivers were running fast and the group was concerned this may cause problems for the mothers travelling with small children to the study sites. However, the turnout at our main sites was impressive with a couple of places seeing over 150 participants.

Soil-Transmitted Helminthiasis

Triple Drug Combination Shows High Activity Against Parasitic Worm Infections

Wendelin Moser and Jennifer Keiser
Swiss TPH
Swiss TPH researchers were able to show high efficacy of a triple drug therapy against hookworm and whipworm in a clinical trial in school-aged children in Lao PDR. This new combination therapy has the potential to replace the WHO recommended standard single dose therapy which is less effective against certain parasitic worm infections.

Efficacy and Safety of Ivermectin Against Trichuris trichiura in Preschool- and School-Aged Children: A RCT

David Wimmersberger et al.
Clinical Infectious Diseases
A randomized placebo-controlled trial was conducted in rural Côte d’Ivoire to provide evidence on the efficacy and safety of ascending oral ivermectin dosages in preschool-aged children and in schoolchildren infected with Trichuris trichiura. In preschool-aged children efficacy against T. trichiura did not differ between 200 µg/kg ivermectin and placebo as expressed in cure rates and geometric mean egg-reduction rates. Given the low efficacy of ivermectin monotherapy against T. trichiura infection further research should investigate the optimal drug combinations and dosages with ivermectin against soil-transmitted helminthiasis.

Worm hunting in Colombia: fighting whipworm infection in the lab and the classroom

National Centre for the Replacement Refinement & Reduction of Animals in Research
In February 2018, Dr María Duque-Correa, a David Sainsbury Fellow based at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, visited Colombia with a special mission: to ‘hunt’ the parasitic whipworm. The Worm Hunters project combines public engagement and raising awareness about whipworm infection with de-worming treatment, as well as providing the opportunity to collect samples of human whipworm to study in the lab. The team worked with school children in Ciénaga, a town on the Caribbean coast of Colombia where up to 50% of children are affected by whipworm infection.


Azithromycin to Reduce Childhood Mortality in Sub-Saharan Africa

Jeremy D. Keenan et al.
The New England Journal of Medicine
In this cluster-randomized trial, we assigned communities in Malawi, Niger, and Tanzania to four twice-yearly mass distributions of either oral azithromycin (approximately 20 mg per kilogram of body weight) or placebo. A total of 1533 communities underwent randomization, 190,238 children were identified in the census at baseline, and 323,302 person-years were monitored. Among postneonatal, preschool children in sub-Saharan Africa, childhood mortality was lower in communities randomly assigned to mass distribution of azithromycin than in those assigned to placebo, with the largest effect seen in Niger.

[VIDEO] What if we eliminated one of the world's oldest diseases

Caroline Harper
Trachoma is an agonizing eye infection that causes blindness. It's been around for thousands of years, and about 200 million people in the world are at risk for it today. The crazy thing is, says Caroline Harper, it's completely preventable. Armed with data from a global mapping project, her organization Sightsavers has a plan: to focus on countries where funding gaps stand in the way of elimination -- and ramp up efforts in the highest-needs areas, too. The goal: to consign this disease to the history books.

Diagnosing trachoma for elimination

Emma Harding-Esch
Trachoma is diagnosed using clinical signs, using what is known as the World Health Organization (WHO) simplified grading system. This grading system correlates with the pathogenesis of the disease, with the early signs of trachoma detected by everting the upper eyelid and examining the subtarsal conjunctiva.

Trachoma Elimination: Nigeria To Benefit From UKaid £20m Fund

Benjamin Isaiah
Leadership (Nigeria)
Trachoma elimination in Nigeria has gotten a boost after UKAid announced new funding amounting to £20 million fund for ten Commonwealth states. The funding will also support elimination efforts in Kenya, Kiribati, Nauru, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tanzania, Tonga and Vanuatu. Sightsavers Nigeria welcomes UKaid’s new funding commitment as a major boost to trachoma elimination efforts in the country, which currently has the world’s second highest trachoma rate.

Trachoma in Yunnan province of southwestern China: findings from trachoma rapid assessment

Min Wu et al.
BMC Opthamology
The active trachoma was rarely seen and trachoma is unlikely to be a significant public health problem in Yunnan Province, South-western China.

Botswana: Masisi Advocates for Eye Health

Baleseng Batlotleng
President Mokgweetsi Masisi has promised to encourage fellow Commonwealth leaders at the ongoing Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) to help eliminate Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) and achieve clear vision for everyone everywhere. "This is an important occasion. We are all in the frontline of improving the lives of our people. Botswana, like most developed countries, is faced with problems of blindness and visual impairment, 80 per cent of which cases are preventable."


Peter Hotez On “The Most Important Diseases You've Never Heard Of”

Caroline Halter and Rebecca Cruise
Despite the rapid pace of medical advancements like gene therapy, treating many of the world’s most devastating diseases is a matter of economics and political will, not science. That’s according to Dr. Peter Hotez, the dean of Baylor University’s National School of Tropical Medicine. Hotez says this is particularly true for a group of parasitic and bacterial infections collectively known as Neglected Tropical Diseases, or NTD’s. These diseases, says Hotez, have more to do with economics than climate. “They're not even rare diseases. They're very common,” Hotez said. “ But they're hidden. They're hidden among the poor.”

Could violent conflict derail the London Declaration on NTDs?

Rebecca Y. Du, Jeffrey D. Stanaway and Peter J. Hotez
PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases
Conflict not only facilitates the relationship between poverty and poor health, but it also is a social determinant of health in its own right. In other words, violent conflict enables poor health outcomes independent of poverty. In this study, the authors quantify the overlap among countries with conflict and countries with high prevalence of NTDs, and we discuss how violent conflict may undermine NTD control efforts, most notably for the 10 diseases slated for control, elimination, or eradication by the 2012 London Declaration on NTDs.

Neglected tropical diseases killing thousands globally put 6 million at risk in war-torn Yemen

Rua'a Alameri
Arab News
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that in 2016, over 6 million people in Yemen were in need of treatment for [neglected tropical diseases, or] NTDs. The END Fund's Associate Director of External Relations, Yayne Hailu explained that the unstable situation in Yemen could lead to the wide spread of the diseases. “Conflict can pose several threats including migration of large numbers of people fleeing conflict zones and living in crowded areas with a lack of access to proper sanitation and clean water,” she said.

Show Commitment To Eradication Of NTDs

Modern Ghana
Dr Isaac Osei, Medical Science Officer of the African Research Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases has appealed to duty bearers to demonstrate total commitment towards the control, elimination and eradication of diseases tagged as NTDs. Speaking to the Ghana News Agency in an interview, Dr Osei, said two years away from the global target, only trachoma and guinea worm were tentatively pencilled to be eradicated. 'Internal financial mobilization is needed to be solicited and prioritized to drive the elimination policy and agenda.'

Modeling tool tells when pairing responses to “big three” and neglected diseases is a win-win

Antigone Barton
Science Speaks: Global ID News
The idea of pairing responses to diseases found in the global south that are so neglected that they are classified by that word with the better-funded, but still constrained responses to the so-called “Big Three” of HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, was not new. Now, a group of researchers from Georgetown University Medical Center write, there is an app for that.


The Chagas Hub: Tackling Chagas’ disease in the United Kingdom

Daniela Kirwan
Coalition for Operational Research on Neglected Tropical Diseases
April 14th marked World Chagas Day, an awareness day for a neglected tropical disease that is endemic across most of Latin America. As awareness raising days go it's not one which registers highly in the UK. But as the evidence grows for the disease's global spread and its potential impact on over a thousand Londoners, a new initiative led by London Centre for NTD Research members from LSHTM and Imperial College London is bringing together healthcare professionals and London's Latin American communities to tackle this disease. Imperial College's Daniela Kirwan explains why this is necessary.

Scabies in residential care homes: Modelling, inference and interventions for well-connected population sub-units

Timothy Kinyanjui et al.
PLOS Computational Biology
In the context of an aging population, understanding the transmission of infectious diseases such as scabies through well-connected sub-units of the population, such as residential care homes, is particularly important for the design of efficient interventions to mitigate against the effects of those diseases. Here, the authors present a modelling methodology based on the efficient solution of a large-scale system of linear differential equations that allows statistical calibration of individual-based random models to real data on scabies in residential care homes.

A Comparative Analysis of Economic Cost of Podoconiosis and Leprosy on Affected Households in the Northwest Region of Cameroon

Ayok M. Tembei et al.
The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
Leprosy and podoconiosis (podo) are neglected tropical diseases that cause severe disfigurement and disability, and may lead to catastrophic health expenditure and hinder economic development of affected persons and households. This study compared economic costs of both diseases on affected households with unaffected neighboring households in the Northwest Region (N.W.R.) of Cameroon.

Nadda reviews status of Leprosy and TB in the country

DD News (India)
Health Minister J P Nadda has directed officials to create a comprehensive strategy for addressing incidence and prevalence of leprosy to eliminate the disease at district level. He also directed them to take up new interventions in areas where the prevalence rate is high and to mount aggressive campaigns to enhance awareness on prevention and control of the disease along with de-stigmatising it.

Universal cure for snakebites within sight

The Times (UK)
A universal antidote for snakebites is on the way to being created, British scientists believe. The antivenom would enable doctors to treat symptoms without knowing the species that attacked the victim. Snakes bite 5 million and kill at least 125,000 people worldwide each year. The World Health Organization has added snakebite to its list of neglected tropical diseases. Venom specialists at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine have shown that it is possible to treat the bite of one snake with antivenom created from a different species.

This animal kills more people in a day than sharks do in a century

Bill Gates
Gates Notes
If you ask someone about what things scare people the most, there’s a list of usual suspects: shark attacks, heights, enclosed spaces, etc. Mosquitoes usually don’t make the cut—but they frighten me more than almost anything else . . . As long as Hollywood keeps making blockbusters about sharks, I’ll keep talking about why everyone should be more scared of a tiny bug than a 3,000-pound carnivore. Jaws is nothing compared with the flying terror that is a mosquito.

Bedside tests for syphilis and yaws tested in sub-Saharan Africa

In many countries where the bacterial infections syphilis and yaws are found, there is limited access to diagnostic testing. Now, researchers have tested the use of a point-of-care test for both syphilis and yaws, which allows testing in rural areas without development of infrastructure. Their results appear this week in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

Peril and Promise: Fighting Malaria and Drug Resistance

Brian W. Simpson
Global Helth NOW
The promise of new antimalarial drugs and concerns about resistance to existing ones made an excellent topic for Wednesday’s World Malaria Day symposium, Malaria Drug Development & Resistance, according to lead organizer David Sullivan, MD, with the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute. In the following Global Health NOW exclusive interview, Sullivan, a professor of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, surveys the current state of malaria drugs, the pipeline of new drugs (look for a new breakout drug in the next 5 years), and a preview of the symposium.

Global leaders seek to reignite fight against deadly malaria

Kate Kelland
Seeking to reignite efforts to wipe out the deadly mosquito-borne disease, philanthropists, business leaders and ministers from donor and malaria-affected countries pledged £2.7 billion ($3.8 billion) to drive research and innovation and improve access to malaria prevention and treatments. Spearheaded by the Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates, the leaders warned against complacency in fighting malaria - a disease which kills around half a million people, mainly babies and young children, each year.

Malaria in conflict zones threatens global progress against the disease

Nellie Peyton
Thomson Reuters Foundation
Global gains in the fight against malaria could be reversed unless countries control the disease in conflict zones, where deaths and infections are rising, experts said on Tuesday. The number of malaria cases worldwide increased in 2016 after 15 years of decline, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). "Whenever there is an emergency, if the country is endemic for malaria (then) disruption of health services, movement of people and malnutrition ... all lead to malaria," explains the World Health Organization's global malaria program director, Pedro Alonso.

It helps to have friends in tech (unless you’re a malaria parasite)

Jeff Bernson
The Zambian Ministry of Health, PATH, and the eight tech companies in the Visualize No Malaria initiative are proud to announce a joint commitment to support the government of Zambia’s goal to eliminate malaria within its borders. Our vision: through improved data analytics, best-in-class tools, and training, we can transform health intelligence and save lives.

Press Release: PATH and Mologic advance a new diagnostic test to support malaria elimination

Kate Davidson and Mark Davis
PATH and United Kingdom-based test developer Mologic have entered an agreement to advance a new rapid diagnostic test to support treatment and elimination of Plasmodium vivax, or relapsing, malaria. PATH is advancing a portfolio of tests for G6PD deficiency that meet requirements for use in settings where P. vivax malaria is close to elimination. As part of this effort, PATH is working with Mologic to develop a novel qualitative point-of-care G6PD rapid diagnostic test (RDT). This new RDT has the potential to improve access to G6PD testing to support appropriate administration of primaquine.

This World Malaria Day, we’re ready to beat malaria – are you?

Speak Up Africa
25th April marks the tenth World Malaria Day and the culmination of a month of worldwide action against the disease at a time when global malaria cases are on the rise for the first time in a decade. With the rallying call ‘Ready to Beat Malaria’, the RBM Partnership to End Malaria is encouraging governments, health bodies, private sector companies and the public to accelerate progress against malaria, making this World Malaria Day even more vital.

Mosquito-packed drones ready to join fight against Zika and other deadly diseases – UN agency

UN News
Robotics may soon be a critical ally in the fight against disease-spreading bugs, a United Nations agency said Thursday after a successful test that eleased sterile mosquitos from aerial drones aiming to suppress the insect that spreads Zika and other diseases.

Upcoming Events

The 28th Molecular Parasitology & Vector Biology Symposium
April 26,  Athens, Georgia
Center for Tropical & Emerging Diseases
The Molecular Parasitology/Vector Biology Symposium includes talks from graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and leading researchers and concludes with a keynote address by an internationally acclaimed investigator in the field of parasitology or vector biology. Poster sessions and a full lunch are also on the schedule for this free event held at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education on the University of Georgia campus in Athens, GA.

Ethically Managing Global Health Fieldwork Risks
April 26-28,  Atlanta, Georgia
Agnes Scott College
Agnes Scott College, The Task Force for Global Health, and Emory's Rollins School of Public Health have partnered together on a workshop entitled "Ethically Managing Global Fieldwork Risks" that will take place at Agnes Scott College. Panelists will include Dr. Elizabeth Kiss, President of Agnes Scott College, Amb. Mary Ann Peters, CEO of The Carter Center, and Dr. Dave Ross, President and CEO of The Task Force for Global Health.  The discussion will be facilitated by Dr. Jim Lavery, Hilton Chair of Global Health Ethics, Emory University Rollins School of Public Health.

Epidemic Going Viral: Innovation vs. Nature
April 27,  Live Web Event
Massachussetts Medical Society
Today, every epidemic has the potential of becoming a pandemic with catastrophic implications for globa; health. Epidemics Going Viral: Innovation vs. Nature examines this complex challenge from the perspectives of researchers, clinicians, and others who have first-hand experience dealing with epidemics. This free live web event is presented by the Massachussetts Medical Society, featuring conversations with Bill Gates and Paul Farmer.

8th International Conference of the International Lymphoedema Framework
June 6-9, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
The principal topics for the conference will include: clinical diagnosis and assessment, self-management, epidemiology and pathophysiology, lymphoedema management, oncology rehab, national guidelines, outcome measures, and pediatric and primary lymphedema.

Update Course in Clinical Tropical Medicine and Traveler's Health
June 12-13, New Orleans, Louisiana
American Society for Tropical Medicine & Hygiene
ASTMH has developed this course as an update in the essential components of tropical medicine and traveller's health. This two day meeting is designed for physicians and for all other health care providers working in tropical medicine or traveler's health. 

GAELF10 Meeting
June 13-15, New Delhi, India
The 10th Meeting of the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis (GAELF)

June 25-26, London, UK
ISNTD d3 will bring togther experts from within drug discovery and clinical trials to drive the debate and foster new partnerships & alliances leading to tangible outcomes in terms of new therapies to combat these diseases.

ITI Trachoma Expert Committee Meeting
June 26-28, Atlanta, Georgia
International Trachoma Initiative's Trachoma Expert Committee Meeting is an independent body of internationally recognized experts that meets twice annually to review country applications for donations of Zithromax®. 

Eradicate Malaria World Congress 2018
July 1-5,  Melbourne, Australia
The inaugural World Congress on Malaria - Eradicate Malaria 2018 - will bring together the broad global community including implementers, scientists, funders, governments, policy makers and those directly affected by the disease. The aim is to bring the broad spectrum of the malaria world together for the first time, to further galvanise the effort for the eradication of malaria.

5th International Conference on Neglected Tropical & Infectious Diseases
August 29-30,  Boston, Massachussetts
Theme: Uniting all to overcome and fight against NTD's & infectious diseases for improved health protection.

NNN 2018 
September 24-26, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
We are delighted to announce the dates for the 9th NNN annual conference, subject to venue availability.

10th Euro-Global Conference on Infectious Diseases
September 27-29, Rome, Italy
Theme: Advancing in science and improving care to prevent infectious diseases.

67th Annual ASTMH Meeting 
October 28 - November 1, New Orleans, Louisiana
The ASTMH Annual Meeting draws tropical medicine and global health professionals representing academia, government, non-profits, philanthropy, NGOs, industry, military and private practice. The meeting is designed for researchers, professors, government and public health officials, military personnel, travel clinic physicians, practicing physicians in tropical medicine, students and all health care providers working in the fields of tropical medicine, hygiene and global health. 

7th Global Scabies Control Meeting
October 28, New Orleans, Louisiana
We are pleased to announce the date for the 7th Global Scabies Control meeting. The meeting will be held on Sunday 28th October in New Orleans, LA, USA. Please mark this in your diaries now! Further information and registration details will follow in coming months. 

Women Deliver 2019 Conference 
June 3-6, 2019, Vancouver, Canada
The Women Deliver 2019 Conference – the world’s largest gathering on the health, rights, and wellbeing of women and girls – will serve as a fueling station for advocates working to achieve a more gender equal world. In the summer of 2019, over 6,000 world leaders, influencers, advocates, academics, activists, and journalists will flock to Vancouver with dreams of accelerating progress girls and women everywhere.