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COVID-19 Spread Slows in Africa, Ascend Learning and Innovation Fund Announced & 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.

COVID-19 Cases in Africa

The initial analysis indicates that countries which implemented partial and targeted lockdowns along with effective public health measures may have been even more effective at slowing down the virus.

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION

Lymphatic filariasis

Indonesia firmly committed to eliminating lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem

Ashok Moloo
World Health Organization
Indonesia recently completed the last of its annual large-scale treatment for lymphatic filariasis (also known as elephantiasis or Penyakit Kaki Gajah) in Malaka District located in its southernmost province, East Nusa Tenggara. Unprecedented progress by the National Lymphatic Filariasis Elimination Programme has strongly placed the country on the path to achieving the elimination of lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem. “We reached an estimated number of 40.7 million people living in the 118 high-risk districts during this month-long treatment campaign in October 2019” said Dr Anung Sugihantono, who recently retired as Director General of Diseases Prevention and Control, Ministry of Health Indonesia. “Single doses of diethylcarbamazine citrate and albendazole facilitated by WHO were delivered to all eligible populations.”

Mapping lymphatic filariasis in Loa loa endemic health districts naïve for ivermectin mass administration. . .

Andrew A. Beng et al.
PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases
This study was carried out in 124 communities in 31 health districts (HDs) where L. loa is present. . .Using a combination of parasitological and molecular tools, we were unable to find evidence of W. bancrofti presence in the 31 HDs, but L. loa instead. Therefore, [lymphatic filariasis, or] LF is not endemic and LF [mass drug administration, or] MDA is not required in these districts.

Acute Lymphatic Filariasis Infection in United States Armed Forces Personnel Deployed to the Pacific Area of Operations. . .

Wayne D. Melrose and Peter A. Leggat
Tropical Medicine and Infectious Disease
The deployment of United States (US) Armed Forces personnel into the central Pacific islands of Samoa and Tonga, which is highly-endemic for lymphatic filariasis (LF), resulted in thousands of cases of the acute form of this disease and greatly reduced their ability to carry out their mission. The major driving factor for the intensity of transmission was the aggressiveness and efficiency of the Aedes species mosquito vectors, especially the day-biting Ae. Polynesiensis. The paper reminds us of the danger that tropical diseases can pose for troops sent into endemic areas and constant and careful surveillance that is required to prevent rapid resurgence of Aedes-transmitted LF in populations, where the LF elimination program has been successful.

Onchocerciasis

Determinants of community-led ivermectin treatment adherence for onchocerciasis control in Western Ethiopia. . .

Fikadu Ayalew, Desta Debalkie Atnafu, Melkamu Bedimo and Kebadnew Mulatu
Tropical Medicine and Health
Treatment adherence was influenced by participation in selecting drug distributers, measuring height for dose determination, perceived risk of getting onchocerciasis, living near running water and perceived needs of support for intake of ivermectin. To improve intake of the drug and its adherence, the community should be empowered to make decisions, and counseling family members and sensitizing those living far from river sides is commendable. Health information about onchocerciasis should be strengthening to increase risk perception.

Focus of Ongoing Onchocerciasis Transmission Close to Bangui, Central African Republic

Eric de Smet et al.
Pathogens
Recently, there were anecdotal reports of a high number of persons with epilepsy, including children with nodding seizures in the Landja Mboko area located about 9 km from the capital city Bangui, Central African Republic. We suspected the area to be endemic for onchocerciasis, and that the alleged increase in the number of epilepsy cases was due to ongoing Onchocerca volvulus transmission. However, ivermectin mass drug distribution (MDA) had never been implemented in the area. Therefore we performed an Ov16 antibody prevalence study among children, aged 6–9 years, using the biplex rapid diagnostic test (SD Bioline Oncho/LF biplex IgG4 RDT). The overall Ov16 seroprevalence was 8.9%, and that of lymphatic filariasis (LF) was 1.9%. Ov16 seropositivity was highest in Kodjo (20.0%), a village close to rapids on the river. Our study shows that there is ongoing O. volvulus transmission in the Landja Mboko area. We recommend that the extent of this onchocerciasis focus should be mapped, and the introduction of ivermectin MDA should be considered in these communities.

“Stamp Out Oncho” in Cameroon: A Country’s Journey to Eliminating River Blindness

The Task Force for Global Health
For decades, river blindness has plagued the health and lives of millions in some of the most remote and impoverished regions in the world. It has taken the dedication of health professionals, scientists, NGOs, and endemic communities to help countries like Cameroon make progress in the fight to “Stamp Out Oncho.” Watch this short documentary to see how Cameroon’s journey is a shining example of the power of partnerships to protect the health of entire populations.

Schistosomiasis

Assessing expanded community wide treatment for schistosomiasis: Baseline infection status and self-reported risk factors. . .

Lucas J. Cunningham et al.
PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases
This paper reports on the baseline prevalence and associated risk factor findings of a pilot, longitudinal study exploring community-wide treatment of schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiasis, using albendazole plus praziquantel in the Greater Accra region of Ghana. . . The communities targeted by this study showed a range of Schistosoma prevalence’s of infection, from hypo-endemic through to meso-endemic and hyper-endemic. The prevalence of SCH across the different age groups in the study locations highlights the large number of individuals currently being left out of the standard morbidity control method of annual treatment of the [school-age children] SAC.

VIDEO: Schistosomiasis treatment gaps hinder elimination efforts: a current perspective

ISNTD Connect
In this challenging time where countless work places, universities, schools and public places have temporarily closed their doors and everything’s a bit unknown, we hope that continuing professional conversations online can provide a practical way to further knowledge-sharing, close some of the gaps left where ongoing research has been paused, and provide mutual support. ISNTD Connect is a forum and series of short meetings online, where researchers and professionals in the fields of tropical diseases and public health are able to present and discuss ongoing research and topics. These online meetings are open to all and free, and are scheduled to last about 30-60 minutes.

Soil-Transmitted Helminthiasis

Schistosomiasis and hookworm infection in humans: Disease burden, pathobiology and anthelmintic vaccines

lAnisuzzaman and NaotoshiTsuji
Parasitology International
Schistosomes and hookworms cause enormous sufferings, huge morbidity and significant numbers of death. Globally ~250 million people suffer from schistosomiasis, and results 1430 thousand DALY per year. About 1.3 billion people are infected with hookworms and accounts for 845 thousand DALY. Hookworms cause 65,000 deaths annually as well as 6–35.3% loss in productivity. No vaccine is commercially available and few vaccine candidates have reached to the clinical trials.

Trachoma

Prevalence and associated factors of active trachoma among 1–9 years old children in Deguatemben, Tigray, Ethiopia, 2018. . .

Gebremeskel Reda, Dejen Yemane and Aregawi Gebreyesus
BMC Ophthalmology
We conducted a Community based cross-sectional study among 502 children aged 1–9 in March 2018 in Deguatemben. . . The prevalence declined from the baseline, but it is still a public health problem in the district. Personal-related factors were found to be associated with the disease. Health education of “Facial cleanness” and related factors is recommended to increase knowledge of the mothers on their children’s care in addition to the provision of antibiotics.

Cross-cutting

The Ascend Learning and Innovation Fund

Ascend West and Central Africa
The Ascend West and Central Africa programme, funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), is excited to announce a new learning and innovation fund to accelerate the control and elimination efforts for up to five neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) – lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis, soil-transmitted helminths and trachoma. The Ascend Learning and Innovation Fund can provide grants between £20,000 – £500,000 to support a flexible range of NTD-focused activities, from research to large-scale implementation, across 13 countries in West and Central Africa (Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria and Sierra Leone).

Volunteer Group Addresses Supply Chain Challenges to Track Medical Donations for Neglected Tropical Diseases From Door to Door

The Task Force for Global Health
To help ensure the timely delivery of the appropriate type and number of drugs to endemic countries around the world, volunteers from the NTD community came together to form the NTD Supply Chain Forum in 2012. A key driver of the Forum is to help streamline and address the logistical challenges of moving medicines from the doors of the manufacturing facility to the doors of individuals in remote villages around the world.

VIDEO: Accelerating clinical research relevant to LMICs: lessons from Neglected Tropical Diseases for COVID19

ISNTD Connect
In this challenging time where countless work places, universities, schools and public places have temporarily closed their doors and everything’s a bit unknown, we hope that continuing professional conversations online can provide a practical way to further knowledge-sharing, close some of the gaps left where ongoing research has been paused, and provide mutual support. ISNTD Connect is a forum and series of short meetings online, where researchers and professionals in the fields of tropical diseases and public health are able to present and discuss ongoing research and topics. These online meetings are open to all and free, and are scheduled to last about 30-60 minutes.

DEADLINE EXTENDED: NTD Innovation Prize

American Leprosy Missions
NTD Innovation Hub
Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) affect more than one billion of the world’s most vulnerable people, many in remote and underserved locations. In these contexts, affected people and health systems confront challenges in finding, diagnosing, treating and managing the complications of NTDs. American Leprosy Missions accelerates the exploration and application of innovative solutions to stop disease and improve well-being for people affected by high-morbidity NTDs. Our lean experimentation process allows us to engage in translational research and develop projects, systems and tools that create sustainable, positive impact. This includes the annual NTD Innovation Prize, launched in September 2019. The prize encourages and supports ideas with the potential for cost-effective, scalable results for people affected by NTDs. In 2020, American Leprosy Missions is partnering with Novartis to offer a first place prize of $20,000 and a second place prize of $15,000.

Other

New model of the GI tract could speed drug development

Sarah McDonnell
EurekAlert!
Developing drugs that can be easily absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract is a particular challenge for treating neglected tropical diseases, tuberculosis, and malaria, says Giovanni Traverso, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at MIT and a gastroenterologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital. "Many of the drugs that are being developed today for neglected tropical diseases are insoluble and poorly permeable," Traverso says. "We can potentially identify better formulations much faster using this new system."

Humans: are we the most effective vector of disease?

Christina Faust
BugBitten
Over one-seventh of the world's population moved within the last year. Migration is only expected to increase in the coming years. What is important to understand about these populations so that we can improve the health of all?

GUINEA WORM WRAP-UP #267

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The Carter Center
On March 6, 2020, Chad’s Minister of Health, the Honorable Professor Mahmoud Youssouf Khayal, visited Aligarga village in Mandelia district of Chari Baguirmi Region to launch a new strategy of proactive dog tethering in villages at high risk of Guinea worm infections. Studies undertaken suggest that dogs that eat discarded, raw fingerlings (small fish) and fish guts at lagoons or riversides during seasonal mass fishing are at the highest risk for Guinea worm infection.

VIDEO: An inter-laboratory trial as a tool to increase rabies diagnostic capabilities of Sub-Saharan A

ISNTD Connect
In this challenging time where countless work places, universities, schools and public places have temporarily closed their doors and everything’s a bit unknown, we hope that continuing professional conversations online can provide a practical way to further knowledge-sharing, close some of the gaps left where ongoing research has been paused, and provide mutual support. ISNTD Connect is a forum and series of short meetings online, where researchers and professionals in the fields of tropical diseases and public health are able to present and discuss ongoing research and topics. These online meetings are open to all and free, and are scheduled to last about 30-60 minutes.

COVID-19

African countries start easing COVID-19 confinement measures

World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa
When COVID-19 emerged as a global health threat, African countries were quick to enact public health measures to slow the spread of the virus. Now as some countries begin to ease lockdowns, it is important to maintain strong surveillance, case finding and testing among other control measures to halt the pandemic. “National and regional lockdowns have helped to slow down the spread of COVID, but it remains a considerable public health threat,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa. “Lockdowns are being eased in some parts of Africa, but we cannot just revert back to how things were before the outbreak. If governments abruptly end these measures, we risk losing the gains countries have made so far against COVID-19.”

A COVID-19 vaccine might be ready within 18 months. But what happens then?

The Optimist
Developing and manufacturing a vaccine against COVID-19 is only part of the solution. Without galvanizing the political will and developing the infrastructure to ensure that the vaccine is distributed equitably, to every person who needs it, in every corner of the globe, this disease will continue to stalk mankind for many years to come. “This is a global pandemic, so it affects everybody. The best way for us all to be protected is to have an equitable approach to access—to ensure we’re doing what makes the most sense for the pandemic and for all of our protection, not just whoever can spend the most money,” says Brad Tytel, a senior program officer at the Gates Foundation, who is helping to coordinate its policy and advocacy response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Launch of the one by one: Target COVID-19 Campaign to support Africa

Africa CDC, Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete Foundation and The Access Challenge
On Wednesday April 29, 2020, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), the Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete Foundation, and The Access Challenge are launching a campaign called One by One: Target COVID-19. The Campaign will support efforts by the African Union and its COVID-19 Fund by advocating for increased financing for Africa CDC to raise its capacity for securing essential diagnostics and medical supplies needed for COVID-19 response in Africa. This Campaign will galvanize action against COVID-19 by drawing attention to the need for widespread testing and social prevention measures across the continent, in support of the Partnership to Accelerate COVID-19 Testing (PACT): Trace, Test and Track and the Africa Joint Continental Strategy for COVID-19 of the African Union.

How (Not) to Do an Antibody Survey for SARS-CoV-2

Catherine Offord
The Scientist
Not all seroprevalence studies are created equal—a point that needs to be clear when discussing the implications of their findings, says Eva Harris, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health. Harris is planning a long-term study of thousands of people across the East Bay area to monitor how seroprevalence and the number of asymptomatic infections in the community respond to changes in COVID-19 mitigation strategies. “I think that it’s really important that many places do seroprevalence studies—I’m super supportive of that,” Harris says. “I also think it’s incredibly important that people understand the limitations” of individual studies, she continues. “The study design and the test used and the interpretation have to be transparent to the [scientific] community, and there has to be some way to communicate that to the public.”

“We’re preparing for 2021 today”: An update on the Therapeutics Accelerator

Trevor Mundel
The Optimist
Researchers at the University of Washington are now enrolling outpatients with COVID-19 for a randomized controlled trial looking at the effectiveness of two drug regimens – hydroxychloroquine and hydroxychloroquine with azithromycin. The trial will enroll 630 patients at sites across the country, including Seattle, Boston, New Orleans, New York City, Syracuse, and Chicago.

In the Face of COVID-19, We Must Keep Malaria Programming as a Priority

Erin Eckert
RTI International
Recent history has shown that when outbreaks happen, resources are diverted from primary health services and people stop seeking care, resulting in excess morbidity and mortality from diseases that are preventable and treatable. For example, when Ebola raged through West Africa from 2014-2016, people became wary of seeking health care when they were ill due to health centers and hospitals presenting a high risk of exposure to the deadly virus. At the same time, health care resources were rapidly channeled into addressing the urgent needs of the Ebola outbreak response. Models have shown that these disruptions to normal health care provision could have resulted in an estimated additional 3.5 million untreated cases of malaria, with 10,500 additional malaria-attributable deaths in Ebola-affected countries in 2014.

Opinion: How to simultaneously tackle malaria and COVID-19

Sean Callahan
Devex
The timing for coronavirus could not be worse. The latest data shows the pandemic is spreading in malaria-endemic parts of West and Central Africa just as our teams are planning for the high season — between July and October when seasonal rains fuel the rise of massive mosquito populations. Pedro Alonso, director of the Global Malaria Program for the World Health Organization, while sharing new guidance on tailoring malaria interventions for coronavirus, recently tweeted that we can "contain #COVID-19 and accelerate our fight against #malaria which we know will kill hundreds of thousands of people this year

Editorial: COVID-19: remaking the social contract

The Lancet
Despite important deficiencies in some responses, in many ways the world is witnessing the setting aside of ideology to address the urgent and fundamental need common to all people—the protection of health. So far, the measures taken have been uneven, short-term, and reactive. But it is hard to imagine that when this pandemic is over, the public will be content to go back to the way things were. That it has taken a crisis of this scale to force the recognition that the basic role of a government is to serve and protect its people—that wellbeing has a higher value than gross domestic product—is a shocking demonstration of how the reciprocal rights and responsibilities that form the basis of so many democratic systems have been hollowed out. The kind of societies that are set to emerge from this pandemic is far from clear, but our interconnectedness and interdependence at local, national, and global levels have never been more undeniable. Nor can the importance of well resourced and well prepared health systems continue to be ignored. A renewed and expanded social contract, one with health at the centre, could well be one legacy of COVID-19.

VIDEO: Learning and Adapting during COVID-19: How are international development implementers and donors responding in this chall

RTI International
The world has been profoundly affected by the COVID-19 crisis. International development efforts – which hinge on strong interpersonal connections – are being faced with challenges on such a large scale. Barriers to knowledge sharing, learning, and adapting in this new environment are posing challenges to project implementation around the world. Collaborating, Learning, and Adapting (CLA) – perhaps in new and different ways – is more critical than ever as all of our systems of resilience are tested.

Upcoming Events 

NOTE - Events may be postponed or cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Please check with event organizers to confirm events.

Integrated approach in the control and management of skin neglected tropical diseases: experience from Côte d’Ivoire and Benin
May 5, 2020, ISNTD Connect
In this challenging time where countless work places, universities, schools and public places have temporarily closed their doors and everything’s a bit unknown, we hope that continuing professional conversations online can provide a practical way to further knowledge-sharing, close some of the gaps left where ongoing research has been paused, and provide mutual support. ISNTD Connect is a forum and series of short meetings online, where researchers and professionals in the fields of tropical diseases and public health are able to present and discuss ongoing research and topics. These online meetings are open to all and free, and are scheduled to last about 30-60 minutes.

Global COVID Lab Meeting
May 7 - July 16, 2020, Webinar
With the Global COVID Lab Meeting, the Human Vaccines Project brings together the worldwide scientific community working to develop vaccines and immunotherapies to end the COVID-19 pandemic. This bi-weekly webinar features leading scientists from across the globe. It offers them a neutral platform to present their latest data with ample time allowed for questions and discussion. The webinar is open to scientists and policy makers globally.

The ASCEND Fund: funding ideas to change the world​​​​​​​
May 7, 2020, ISNTD Connect
In this challenging time where countless work places, universities, schools and public places have temporarily closed their doors and everything’s a bit unknown, we hope that continuing professional conversations online can provide a practical way to further knowledge-sharing, close some of the gaps left where ongoing research has been paused, and provide mutual support. ISNTD Connect is a forum and series of short meetings online, where researchers and professionals in the fields of tropical diseases and public health are able to present and discuss ongoing research and topics. These online meetings are open to all and free, and are scheduled to last about 30-60 minutes.

Beijing +25 Mexico Forum - POSTPONED
May 7-8, 2020, Mexico City, Mexico
The Generation Equality Forum will call for urgent action on achieving equality, demanding equal economic and social opportunities for women while calling for an end to all forms of violence against women and girls. 

73rd World Health Assembly - VIRTUAL
Opening May 18, 2020
The World Health Assembly is the decision-making body of WHO. It is attended by delegations from all WHO Member States and focuses on a specific health agenda prepared by the Executive Board. The main functions of the World Health Assembly are to determine the policies of the Organization, appoint the Director-General, supervise financial policies, and review and approve the proposed programme budget. The Health Assembly is held annually in Geneva, Switzerland.

6th World One Health Congress - POSTPONED
June 14-18, 2020, Edinburgh, Scotland
The 6th World One Health Congress is the largest One Health event of the year, where experts and researchers from around the world present their latest scientific research.

CHOGM 2020 - POSTPONED
June 22-27, 2020, Kigali, Rwanda
The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) is a pivotal agenda-setting and decision-making space for the diverse community of 53 Commonwealth countries. With varying economic statuses and vast oceans between them, our leaders meet every two years to explore how they can pool their resources and innovations to transform joint challenges into exciting opportunities. In June 2020, Rwanda will host the meeting. Connected by similar traditions, language, governance and legal structures, presidents, prime ministers and monarchs, from Africa, the Caribbean and Americas, Europe, Asia and the Pacific, will travel to Kigali to reaffirm their common values and agree actions and policies to improve the lives of all their citizens.

Kigali Summit on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases
June 25 2020, Kigali, Rwanda
Based on the Commonwealth 2018-2023 Malaria Commitment, the London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), a renewed World Health Organization (WHO) roadmap on NTDs and thanks to the leadership of President Kagame and Heads of Government from many countries, there is an opportunity to focus global attention and accelerate action towards ending these preventable and treatable diseases at the time of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 2020 in Kigali, Rwanda.

NTD NGO Network Annual Meeting - VIRTUAL
September 8-10, 2020, Kathmandu, Nepal
2020 will be an important year: celebrating the success and embracing the new NTD Roadmap from the World Health Organization. Please get your stories ready and join the celebration!

75th Session of the UN General Assembly 
September 15-30, 2020, New York, NY
All 193 Member States of the Organization are represented in the General Assembly - one of the six main organs of the UN - to discuss and work together on a wide array of international issues covered by the Charter of the United Nations, such as development, peace and security, international law, etc. Every year in September, all the Members meet in this unique forum at Headquarters in New York for the General Assembly session.

GAELF 11
September 29 - October 1, 2020, Lomé, Togo
More details to follow.

11th IAPB General Assembly - POSTPONED
October 12-14, 2020, Singapore
The General Assembly will mark the end of the VISION 2020: The Right to Sight period. It will present a great opportunity to take stock, celebrate successes and make plans for the future. A key focus will be on the WHO’s World Report on Vision and its framework for the future. The event will have three co-chairs leading on three streams: “Excellence”, “Eye Health in the West Pacific” and “Sustainability”. 

Expo 2020 Dubai: Global Best Practice Programme
October 20 2020 - April 10, 2021
Expo 2020 Dubai’s platform to showcase projects that have provided tangible solutions to the world’s biggest challenges. It will highlight simple but effective initiatives, which localise the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and can be adapted, replicated, and scaled to achieve an enhanced global impact.

World Health Summit 
October 25-27, 2020, Berlin, Germany
The World Health Summit is one of the world’s leading strategic forums for global health. Held annually in Berlin, it brings together leaders from politics, science and medicine, the private sector, and civil society to set the agenda for a healthier future. 300 speakers and 2,500 participants from 100 countries take part.

6th World One Health Congress 
October 30 - November 3, 2020, Edinburgh, Scotland
The 6th World One Health Congress is the largest One Health event of the year, where experts and researchers from around the world present their latest scientific research.