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Clinical Trial Assesses Impact of Azithromycin and Ivermectin Co-Administration, Iran Eliminates Trachoma as a Public Health Problem & 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.

Trachoma Iran

Minooshahr, Khuzestan province, Islamic Republic of Iran; ophthalmologic exam and surveillance visit in December 2017


Lymphatic filariasis

Environmental suitability for lymphatic filariasis in Nigeria

Obiora A. Eneanya et al.
Parasites & Vectors
We used pre-intervention site-level occurrence data from 1192 survey sites collected during extensive mapping surveys by the Nigeria Ministry of Health. Using an ensemble of machine learning modelling algorithms (generalised boosted models and random forest), we mapped the ecological niche of LF at a spatial resolution of 1 km2. By overlaying gridded estimates of population density, we estimated the human population living in LF risk areas on a 100 × 100 m scale.

Human Migration and the Spread of the Nematode Parasite Wuchereria bancrofti

Scott T. Small et al.
We used selective whole genome amplification to enrich W. bancrofti DNA from infected blood samples and were able to analyze 47 whole genomes of W. bancrofti from endemic locations in Haiti, Mali, Kenya, and Papua New Guinea. Our results are consistent with a Southeast Asia or East Asia origin for W. bancrofti spread around the globe by infecting migrating populations of humans.

Feasibility of school-based health education intervention to improve the compliance to mass drug administration. . .

Prativa Karki, Yayi Suryo Prabandari, Ari Probandari and Megha Raj Banjara
Ensuring reduction in transmission of lymphatic Filariasis (LF) and addressing the compliance of people to mass drug administration (MDA) has led to renewed efforts in the field. School-based health education (SBHE) intervention, considered a cost-effective strategy with potential to reach the wider public through young people, was adopted as a strategy for social mobilization. This study assessed SBHE perceptions, implementation barriers, and factors in the supporting environment as well as its efficiency to successfully change LF MDA-related knowledge and practice.

LSTM led partnership receives funding to develop drug for treating two neglected tropical diseases

Kate Anderton
News Medical
An LSTM led partnership has been awarded nearly £1.5 million from the Medical Research Council (MRC) for the pre-clinical development of a candidate drug to treat onchocerciasis and lymphatic filariasis, by targeting the bacterial symbiont Wolbachia. Led by LSTM's Deputy Director, Professor Steve Ward, the partnership comprises of researchers from LSTM, University of Liverpool and the pharmaceutical company Eisai Co., Ltd. In this 18-month project, the team will perform a full pre-clinical program for the drug candidate, AWZ1066S, up to the first in man transition phase.


Onchocerciasis-Associated Epilepsy with Head Nodding Seizures—Nodding Syndrome: A Case Series of 15 Patients from Western Uganda

Christoph Kaiser, George Asaba, Tom Rubaale, Ephraim Tukesiga and Walter Kipp
The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
With a systematic analysis of features of a cohort of epilepsy patients examined in the Itwara onchocerciasis focus of western Uganda in 1994, we provide evidence that NS actually occurred in this area at this time, and we demonstrate a correlation between prevalence of NS and that of onchocerciasis in different villages. Following the elimination of onchocerciasis by community-directed treatment with ivermectin and ground larviciding, our data provide a baseline to examine the question whether NS will disappear once its putative cause has been removed.

The foundations for a global elimination programme for onchocerciasis

James A G Whitworth
Transactions of The Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
The two papers discussed in this commentary marked the start of a series of descriptions of the epidemiology of onchocerciasis in West Africa. The work was led by John Anderson, an epidemiologist, and Harald Fuglsang, an ophthalmologist, who were based at the UK Medical Research Council’s Helminthiasis Research Unit, in Kumba, Cameroon in the 1970s. These papers provided the first truly systematic description of onchocerciasis, which was then and remains today a neglected tropical disease (NTD) affecting the poorest of the poor and those ‘beyond the end of the road’.

Community-directed vector control to supplement mass drug distribution for onchocerciasis elimination in the Madi mid-North. . .

Benjamin G. Jacob et al.
PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases
Because biting by the black fly vectors is often a major nuisance in onchocerciasis afflicted communities, we hypothesized that community members might be mobilized to clear the breeding sites of the vegetation that represents the primary black fly larvae attachment point. We evaluated the effect of such a community based "slash and clear" intervention in multiple communities in Northern Uganda. Slash and Clear resulted in 89–99% declines in vector biting rates. The effect lasted up to 120 days post intervention.

USF plays pivotal role in eradication of river blindness

Cheryl Rogers
83 Degrees Media
Now USF’s Department of Global Health has been designated a collaborating center for river blindness diagnoses by the Geneva-based WHO, says Dr. Paul Cantey, a Medical Officer at WHO. Although there are more than 800 institutions supporting WHO programs, this center is the only one of its kind worldwide. It will be assisting with the development of labs that verify the elimination of river blindness as well as quality control.


Chemotherapy for Fighting Schistosomiasis: Past, Present and Future

Patrick Mäder, Georg A. Rennar, Alejandra M. Peter Ventura, Christoph G. Grevelding and Martin Schlitzer
This review intends to summarize data on relinquished drugs as well as recent advances in the area of antischistosomal compounds from a medicinal chemistry point of view. Furthermore, insights into the structure‐activity relationships of each class of compounds are presented including in vitro and in vivo data, if available. Although many compounds demonstrated good antischistosomal activity in vitro, they offer little promise to replace [Praziquantel, or] PZQ.

Emerging Role of HMGB1 in the Pathogenesis of Schistosomiasis Liver Fibrosis

Amanda R. R. Vicentino et al.
Frontiers in Immunology
In this study, we demonstrate elevated levels of HMGB1 in the sera in experimental mice or in patients with schistosomiasis. Using immunohistochemistry, we demonstrated that HMGB1 trafficking in the hepatocytes of mice suffering from acute schistosomiasis was inhibited by Glycyrrhizin, a well-known HMGB1 direct inhibitor, as well as by DIC, a novel and potential anti-HMGB1 compound. HMGB1 inhibition led to significant downregulation of IL-6, IL4, IL-5, IL-13, IL-17A, which are involved in the exacerbation of the immune response and liver fibrogenesis.

Soil-Transmitted Helminthiasis

Finger prints, tablets and WASH - Can research innovations protect two million people in Ethiopia from parasitic worms?

Francis Peel
A major new deworming initiative has been launched to evaluate different approaches and strategies to eradicate parasitic worms from communities in Ethiopia. Initially focusing on the 2 million people who live in the communities of the Wolaita zone in south-east Ethiopia, the Gashiyaro project aims to identify the optimal design of programmes that will break the transmission of both soil transmitted helminths (STH) and schistosomiasis infections.

Prevalence of intestinal parasitic infections and associated risk factors for hookworm infections among primary schoolchildren

Chuchard Punsawad et al.
BMC Public Health
This study is aimed at determining the prevalence of intestinal parasitic infections, the intensity of [soil-transmitted helminthiasis, or] STH infections and the associated risk factors among primary schoolchildren in Nopphitam District, Nakhon Si Thammarat Province, Thailand.

Health Canada Approves Merck's STROMECTOL™ (ivermectin) for the Treatment of Intestinal Strongyloidiasis and Onchocerciasis

Merck Canada Inc.
Cision Newswire
Intestinal strongyloidiasis is acquired through direct contact with contaminated soil during agricultural, domestic and recreational activities. . . Canadians at risk of intestinal strongyloidiasis include both travellers to, and immigrants from, endemic regions. Because patients may only experience symptoms decades after they were initially infected, it can be difficult to diagnose.


Elimination of trachoma as a public health problem in Islamic Republic of Iran

World Health Organization Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean
Recently, the Islamic Republic of Iran prepared a dossier on the elimination of trachoma as a public health problem which provided information on the current epidemiological situation of trachoma in the country and the systems for identifying and managing patients with Chlamydia trachomatis. . . Based on the evidence provided in the dossier about investment in and implementation the SAFE strategy (Surgery, Antibiotics, Facial cleanliness, Environmental improvement) and the recommendation of the Dossier Review Group, WHO concludes that the Islamic Republic of Iran has achieved elimination of trachoma as a public health problem.

VIDEO: Upendra Yadav, Deputy Prime Minister of Nepal on trachoma elimination in 2018

World Health Organization South-East Asia Region - WHO SEARO
At the Seventy-first Session of the Regional Committee, Upendra Yadav, Deputy Prime Minister of Nepal explains how the country achieved trachoma elimination in 2018.

PODCAST: How Proven Strategies and Passion Prevent Blindness from Trachoma

The Carter Center
Kelly Callahan is passionate about preventing blindness in some of the world’s most vulnerable populations. Callahan, who leads the Carter Center’s Trachoma Control Program, explains how the Center works with the governments and partners in Africa to use the proven SAFE strategies to stop trachoma, the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness.


Feasibility and safety of mass drug coadministration with azithromycin and ivermectin for the control of NTDs. . .

Lucia Romani et al.
The Lancet Global Health
In the largest trial so far involving coadministration of regimens based on ivermectin and azithromycin, the combination was safe and feasible in a population of more than 26 000 people. Coadministration of mass drug administration based on these two drugs opens up new potential for the control of neglected tropical diseases.

Comment: Safe mass drug administration for neglected tropical diseases

Dziedzom K de Souza and Thomas P C Dorlo
The Lancet Global Health
In their article in The Lancet Global Health, Lucia Romani and colleagues evaluate the feasibility and safety of azithromycin and ivermectin co-administered through mass drug administration for the treatment of trachoma and scabies on the Solomon Islands. . . This study represents the first large-scale evaluation of this combination, providing evidence for its safety. Despite the limitations of this study (particularly the inability to use randomised trial methodology and the duration between drug administration and assessment of adverse events), this study provides evidence for the use of safe drug combinations in the control of neglected tropical diseases and shows the feasibility of large-scale evaluation of combination mass drug administration.

RTI International to lead USAID Program to control and eliminate neglected tropical diseases through 2023

RTI International
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has chosen RTI International to implement the five-year Control & Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases – Element Two (CEP-NTD) Project. RTI and its team of implementers will partner with NTD-endemic countries to eliminate seven NTDs—lymphatic filariasis, trachoma, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis, and three intestinal worms known as soil-transmitted helminths— as public health threats and build sustainable country-led systems to prevent NTDs.

The impact of industrial activities on vector-borne disease transmission

Robert T. Jones et al.
Acta Tropica
Our study shows that industrial activities may be coupled with significant changes to human demographics that can potentially increase contact between pathogens, vectors and hosts, and produce a shift of parasites and susceptible populations between low and high disease endemic areas. Indeed, where vector-borne diseases and industrial activities intersect, large numbers of potentially immunologically naïve people may be exposed to infection and lack the knowledge and means to protect themselves from infection. Such areas are typically associated with inadequate access to quality health care, thus allowing industrial development and production sites to become important foci of transmission.

Study finds vaccine pipeline grossly underfunded

Yamey and colleagues conducted a pipeline portfolio review that identified, as of Aug. 31, 2017, 538 disease product candidates for 35 neglected diseases — a term they used for 35 infections or health priorities defined as neglected by Policy Cures Research. These include HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, pneumonia, diarrheal diseases, neglected tropical diseases and reproductive health needs of developing countries. Yamey and colleagues listed what they said were 18 important “missing” products: vaccines against HCV, HIV, malaria and TB; a combined vaccine against multiple diarrheal diseases; a complex new chemical entity (NCE) for TB; and NCEs for 12 neglected tropical diseases.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation says there's opportunity in these 13 areas to make the world better

Peter Kotecki
Business Insider
The report said two innovations will soon be accessible. A simplified treatment for African sleeping sickness — a potentially fatal infection that disturbs sleep cycles, among other neurological symptoms — uses pills instead of a lumbar puncture and inpatient treatment. And a new mix of drugs for lymphatic filariasis — a parasitic infection that targets lymph nodes — drastically lowers how long it takes to remove the parasite.


Guinea Worm Wrap-Up: South Sudan Finds More Cases!

WHO Collaborating Center for Dracunculiasis Eradication, CDC
After 19 consecutive months with no reported cases, three new confirmed cases of Guinea worm disease were discovered in late May and early June 2018 in 14, 17, and 25-year old Dinka cattle keepers in former Rumbek County of Lakes State. None of the patients, who belong to highly migratory communities, was contained.

Experts call for more antivenom to treat deadly snakebite

The Telegraph
The first ever international snakebite awareness day is being launched on September 18, with organisations around the world hoping to galvanise interest in the problem. Up to around 140,000 people die every year from snakebite and nearly half a million are left permanently disabled, often ending up having their limbs amputated.

Integrating palliative care into health care: WHO guides for planners, implementers, and managers

World Health Organization
The objective of these guides is to provide practical guidance on integrating palliative care and symptom relief into health care systems. It is intended, to assist anyone involved with planning, implementing, managing palliative care and symptom control. With this guide, WHO reiterates its commitment to answering the needs and expectations of all people, especially the most vulnerable, providing equitable access to quality and safe care across disease and age groups.

Upcoming Events 

General Assembly of the Unitited Nations (UNGA)
September 18 - 27, New York, New York
The General Assembly is one of the six main organs of the United Nations, the only one in which all Member States have equal representation: one nation, one vote. All 193 Member States of the United Nations are represented in this unique forum to discuss and work together on a wide array of international issues covered by the UN Charter, such as development, peace and security, international law, etc. In September, all the Members meet in the General Assembly Hall in New York for the annual General Assembly session.

Access Challenge Universal Health Forum
September 24, New York, New York
The Universal Health Forum will celebrate the drive towards Universal Health Access in Africa. There will be high-level forums on maternal health, child health and malaria, NTDs and NCDs. There will also be an exhibition hall showcasing new technology, diagnostics, and treatments, and a dinner and awards ceremony celebrating leaders from across Africa.

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.

Global Citizen Festival
September 29, New York
Global Citizen's year-long campaign to end extreme poverty is honoring the legacy of Nelson Mandela in the year he would have turned 100.

International Conference on Migration Health
October 1-3, Rome, Italy
Hosted by the international Society of Travel Medicine.

Scientific Journalism Workshop
October 1-4, Kampala, Uganda
We would like to invite health/science journalists from Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe to submit their applications for a media workshop to be held on 1st – 4th October 2018 in Kampala, Uganda. All interested journalists may apply using the online application form no later than August 17, 2018.

5th Global Symposium on Health Systems Research
October 8-12,  Liverpool, United Kingdom
Theme: Advancing health systems for all in the SDG area.

World Sight Day
October 11, 2018
World Sight Day (WSD) is an annual day of awareness held on the second Thursday of October, to focus global attention on blindness and vision impairment. This year, the "Call to Action" for World Sight Day is "Eye Care Everywhere."

World Health Summit
October 14-16, Berlin, Germany
Central topics for this year's meeting will include pandemic preparedness, sustainable development goals, and access to essential medicines.

Neglected Tropical Diseases Congress: The Future Challenges
October 15-17, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
The conference includes prompt presentations, special sessions, workshops, symposium, oral talks, poster presentations and exhibitions. We expect your kind presence at the conference which will discuss the recent emerging diseases, outbreaks, categories, epidemiology, diagnosis, therapeutics etc.

Collaborations Addressing Vulnerable Populations Forum
October 16-17, Herndon, Virginia
The Collaborations Addressing Vulnerable Populations (CAVP) Forum is a platform dedicated to the steps being made across the biomedical landscape to provide healthcare solutions to populations that represent an unmet medical need. The CAVP Forum will provide attendees with the opportunity to attend sessions from five unique tracks. We will highlight how drug repurposing can alleviate development costs, discuss different ways to ensure access to safe and cost-affective drugs, examine regulatory pathways and incentives targeting rare and neglected tropical diseases, and explore public–private partnerships that support the development of new treatments for vulnerable populations.

The Roadmap to Echinococcosis Control in Peru: Review and Synthesis of the Evidence
October 16-18, Lima, Peru
The objectives of this workshop are to review the cystic echinococcosis situation in Latine American and Peru, to review state-of-the0art methodologies, and to evaluate the evidence generated by pilot projects. The workshop is being coordinated by the University of Surrey (UK) and the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos (Peru), and will have contributions from other leading researchers. We are now inviting Early Career Researchers (ECR) from the UK or Peru to apply to attend this workshop. All travel and accommodation expenses will be covered by the Research Links programme. Applications are welcome until 1 August. Successful candidates will be contacted in early August.

Introduction to Agent-Based Modeling for Infectious Diseases
October 27, New Orleans, Louisiana
ASTMH and the Institute for Disease Modeling (IDM) are partnering to offer an introductory course on using agent-based models for modeling infectious diseases. Modeling is an essential component for understanding disease dynamics and creating effective control strategies, yet it remains inaccessible to many researchers in public health.

Tropical Dermatology
October 27 - 28, New Orleans, Louisiana
This 1.5-day course offers an overview of Tropical Dermatology, an essential component of tropical medicine. The course is designed for clinicians who are already familiar with clinical tropical medicine, either from working in tropical environments or from seeing patients returning from the tropics. Saturday’s session is devoted to cutaneous leishmaniais (the latest in the rapidly changing epidemiology, diagnosis and management). Skin conditions will be reviewed from the standpoint of diagnosing and treating individual patients – and from managing skin diseases on a population basis. 

PLOS Writing Workshop
October 28, New Orleans, Louisiana
PLOS Pathogens and PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, along with the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene and Vector Borne and Zoonotic Diseases, present a Writing Workshop intended to equip and support early career researchers and researchers from disease endemic regions in understanding the publication process and best practices for manuscript writing. Highlights of the sessions include: framing your research and choosing your journal, mapping out your paper, abstract writing, the mechanics of writing, and research and publication ethics. For more information, please contact Charlotte Bhaskar at

Big Data and Genomics – A Practical Workshop on Sequence Analysis in Parasitology
October 28, New Orleans, Louisiana
This practical, hands-on workshop will introduce participants to publicly available sequence analysis tools. Using parasite genome and/or RNAseq data obtained from actual field or laboratory experiments, participants will learn analytical methods and workflows used to extract meaningful biological, evolutionary and/or epidemiological insights. Through live exercises led by experts in the field, participants will learn how to retrieve data from sequence repositories, run them through preconfigured or customized workflows, and visualize and explore the data using web-based tools.

The Global Health Impact of Urbanization and Megacities – Trends, Risk Management and Research Needs
October 28, New Orleans, Louisiana
This course will explore the changing worldwide landscape and global health risks with the exponential increase in urban population growth.  Beyond vector-borne diseases, the lack of barriers between animals, vectors, the environment and water supply increases the risk of other diseases such as leptospirosis, Ebola and plague. We urgently need to be prepared for new microbial transmission pathways in the urban environment that affect human health. 

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. 

1st International Caparica Congress on Leishmaniasis
October 29-31, Caparica, Portugal
This conference intends to gather researchers working in areas related to Leishmaniasis, from treatment to prevention. In fact, as leishmaniasis is slowly but constantly, increasing worldwide, this conference is addressed to show the latest research trends in this area. The idea is to push forward the battle against this persistent disease. 

Women Leaders in Global Health London 2018
November 8-9, London, United Kingdom
Celebrating women in global health leadership and cultivating the next generation of women leaders. 

APHA 2018 Annual Meeting and Expo
November 10-14, San Diego, California
Theme: "Creating the Healthiest Nation: Health Equity Now."  

Vector-Borne Diseases in the UK - Biennial Meeting, 2018
December 3-4, Norwich, United Kingdom
This meeting will be the fourth we have held on this topic, with previous meetings in 2012, 2014 and 2016, and like before we will bring together members of the major UK research groups who have an interest in vectors or vector-borne diseases which could be a threat to the UK; groups with wider but related areas of interest; members of key UK Government Departments and their Agencies; and representatives of European organisations with an interest in this topic. 

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.