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December 12 is Universal Health Coverage 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.  



Universal health coverage (UHC) ensures all people, everywhere, can get the quality health services they need without facing financial hardship. It is a fundamentally political goal, rooted in the right to health. It is also one of the smartest investments any country can make.


Lymphatic filariasis

Drug Repurposing of Bromodomain Inhibitors as Potential Novel Therapeutic Leads for Lymphatic Filariasis. . .

Matthew Chung et al.
The current treatment regimen for lymphatic filariasis is mostly microfilaricidal. In an effort to identify new drug candidates for lymphatic filariasis, we conducted a three-way transcriptomics/systems biology study of one of the causative agents of lymphatic filariasis, Brugia malayi, its Wolbachia endosymbiont wBm, and its vector host Aedes aegypti at 16 distinct B. malayi life stages. B. malayi upregulates the expression of bromodomain-containing proteins in the adult female, embryo, and microfilaria stages. In vitro, we find that the existing cancer therapeutic JQ1(+), which is a bromodomain and extraterminal protein inhibitor, has adulticidal activity in B. malayi.


Implementation of test-and-treat with doxycycline and temephos ground larviciding as alternative strategies. . .

Samuel Wanji et al.
Parasites & Vectors
We hypothesise that through offering alternative approaches to [ivermectin, or] IVM and engaging communities throughout the process there will be lasting positive impacts that will contribute to addressing some of the challenges and concerns faced by communities. We hypothesise that by offering these alternatives to IVM, the poor community perception toward onchocerciasis elimination can be overcome. Further, we predict that a sufficient uptake of DOX treatment, a macrofilaricide with a superior range of anti-filarial efficacies which does not cause loiasis-associated SAE, potentially in combination with vector control, will result in a significant (minimum 37%) decline in community prevalence of O. volvulus skin infection. T


Single-Sex Prawns Could Aid Fight against Snail-Borne Disease

Jillian Kramer
Scientific American
Scientists are mobilizing an all-female army to help stymie schistosomiasis, a sometimes deadly parasitic disease that affects millions of people every year. Macrobrachium rosenbergii prawns “are voracious predators of parasite-carrying snails” that spread the illness, says Amir Sagi, a biologist at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel and principal investigator of a new study on the subject. “The possibility of nonreproducing monosex [prawn] populations, which will not become invasive, opens the path for their use as biocontrol agents.”

Snail fever: Lagos commences treatment in 7 LGAs

Risikat Ramoni
Daily Trust (Nigeria)
The Lagos State government says it has commenced medical intervention in the outbreak of schistosomiasis in seven local government areas of the state with a view to quickly curbing its spread. The intervention will be applied on children between the ages of five and 14 in Ikeja, Ifako-Ijaiye, Amuwo-Odofin, Oshodi-Isolo, Agege, Lagos Mainland and Alimosho local council and local development areas from Monday December 2 to Sunday December 8, 2019.

China-funded water project helps Tanzania's Zanzibar island on schistosomiasis control

A China-funded water supply project has been put into use in Tanzania's Zanzibar archipelago as a measure to strength local schistosomiasis control. The World Health Organization's evaluation team has concluded that schistosomiasis infections in Pemba reduced from 8.92 to 0.64 percent with the help of Chinese medical experts in the past years.

Cost implications of a nationwide survey of schistosomiasis and other intestinal helminthiases in Sudan

Mousab Siddig Elhag et al.
Herein, we present the activities that were necessary to prepare and conduct a nationwide neglected tropical disease survey, along with details on the types and amounts of personnel, survey equipment, and consumables that are required. In addition, through an analysis of the costs of the nationwide survey, we generated average costs at the district and sub-district level. The key cost drivers were personnel and transportation, both of which were recurrent costs. Establishing a steering committee to develop and reach consensus on a survey protocol, assessing the capacities of potential staff (particularly laboratory technicians), and training laboratory technicians and data collectors were key components required to prepare a nationwide survey.

Soil-Transmitted Helminthiasis

Giardia, deworming, and WASH: a complex picture

Naomi Clarke
New findings have revealed that Giardia infections remained prevalent in a low-income setting throughout a regular deworming program to control intestinal worms. The findings also shed light on the complexities involved in implementing improvements to water, sanitation and hygiene in order to reduce parasitic diseases.


Caroline Harper awarded the Hemingway Award

The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness
Dr Caroline Harper CBE, Chief Executive of Sightsavers, has been selected by the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (RSTMH) and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) as the winner of the first Hemingway Award. She receives the award for her work transforming the funding landscape for trachoma, a neglected tropical disease. In a first reaction, Dr Harper said: “I am honoured to be the first recipient of the Hemingway Award, which celebrates the huge contribution of Professor Janet Hemingway. It is certainly wonderful to see how we now have a range of donors interested in driving trachoma through to elimination, and seeing the programmes scale up in country has been incredible.”

Professor David Mabey to receive Prince Mahidol Award 2019

The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness
David Mabey, Professor of Communicable Diseases and Head of the Department of Clinical Research at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, has been selected to receive the Prince Mahidol Award 2019 in the field of Public Health. Professor David Mabey is a leading physician whose work has made a huge impact on the health of people in Asia and Africa. With colleagues at LSHTM, he showed that mass treatment with a single oral dose of the antibiotic azithromycin can eliminate trachoma, the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness.

Leaving a lasting impact: The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust

Astrid Bonfield
The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness
Our eye health programmes ended in 2019. We were privileged to work with extraordinary partners and achieved everything we had planned. 11 Commonwealth countries on track to eliminate blinding trachoma. 13 providing screening and treatment for diabetic retinopathy. Programmes in India to preserve the sight of infants born prematurely, and national guidelines to underpin further rollout across the country. Links forged, and capacity built, right across the Commonwealth. And a commitment by Commonwealth Heads of Government, meeting in London in 2018, to take action towards access to quality eye care for all.

POLICY BRIEF - Trachomatous Trichiasis Management in Tanzania: Investigation of the Productivity of Case Finding. . .

George Kabona, Rebecca M. Flueckiger, Jeremiah Ngondi, Upendo Mwingira and Alistidia Simon
NTD Support Center
We conducted a desk review of data from six districts across three regions and interviewed key groups: people with [trachomatis trichiasisl, or] TT who received surgery and did not receive surgery, TT case finders, TT surgeons, and district-level health officers. Our findings are as follows: A large portion of TT positive people are not being identified by case finders, and of those identified, many are lost along the continuum of care. Remote communities face barriers in being identified and accessing services. Case finders have competing priorities and sometimes face challenges with credibility. Lack of knowledge of TT and available services leads to misconceptions and fear of accessing treatment. Agricultural responsibilities during rainy season and lack of time to prepare for surgery is a major barrier. Many people require assistance after surgery in order to care for their families and themselves.

Accelerate: what’s been achieved in 2019

The Accelerate programme, which aims to eliminate trachoma in nine African countries by 2023, has made great progress in its first 12 months. Here are some of the highlights. . . We’d like to thank every individual supporter and partner organisation involved in trachoma elimination in 2019. Together, we are just a few years away from eliminating an ancient disease.


Astellas Global Health Foundation Makes Inaugural Grant to the END Fund

Angelique Lewis
Astellas Global Health Foundation
Today (December 10), the Astellas Global Health Foundation announced its first grant since the Foundation’s inception, awarding $750,000 to the END Fund, a prominent philanthropic organization combating neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) worldwide. The END Fund will use the investment to deliver NTD treatments through mass drug administration mechanisms designed to control and eliminate NTDs in the Democratic Republic of Congo, one of the world’s poorest countries ranking among the highest in NTD prevalence. Its residents have little access to healthcare (one in five children there dies of preventable diseases before reaching age 5), and more than 55.5 million of its population requires treatment for at least one NTD. . . “As access to health remains such a critical issue for communities worldwide, the Astellas Global Health Foundation is committed to supporting initiatives that reach the world’s most vulnerable populations,” said Moyra Knight, president of the Astellas Global Health Foundation. “Our support of the END Fund demonstrates a strong beginning to our efforts to address the vast disparity in access to health for these communities. We look forward to continuing to partner with organizations making a measurable impact where it’s most needed.”

First African Conference On Neglected Diseases Calls For Increased Efforts To Tackle The Challenges

Fredrick Nzwili
Health Policy Watch
An International Conference on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) ended in Nairobi on Friday with calls for increased research, resources and strengthened cross border partnerships to accelerate the elimination of the diseases. The three day inaugural conference in Africa brought together some 230 participants including scientists, researchers, policy makers and pharmaceutical companies from 19 countries. “I am absolutely happy, and extremely proud of the fact the meeting… has brought together African program implementers and researchers to discuss the neglected diseases. I think it was long time coming. It’s a great initiative,” Dr. Mwelecele Malecela, the director of he Department for the Control of Neglected Diseases at the World Health Organization (WHO) told Health Policy Watch at the end of the meeting.

Professor John Owusu Gyapong wins 2019 Kyelem Prize

NTD Support Center
NATIONAL HARBOR - Professor John Owusu Gyapong was awarded the fifth annual Kyelem Prize on November 19, 2019 at the annual meeting of the Coalition for Operational Research on Neglected Tropical Diseases (COR-NTD). The award was presented by Dr. Eric Ottesen, former director of the NTD Support Center, along with Melissa Kyelem, the daughter of the prize's namesake.

World NTD Day: Micro-Grant Proposal
To help mobilize partners around the world to mark the first World NTD Day and strengthen local partnerships and voices at the country-level, a select number of partners around the world will be chosen to receive a World NTD Day micro-grant, funded by the Crown Prince Court of Abu Dhabi. Micro-grants will range between $500-$3000 USD. Partners may use this funding to support their advocacy and communications activities around World NTD Day. Example activities include: hosting a march or rally; organizing a high-level panel or roundtable; engaging media; developing multimedia or artistic content; sharing perspectives of people affected by NTDs; or educating communities.


How sand fly mating habits are helping tackle tropical disease in £2.5 million project

The tropical disease Leishmaniasis is being tackled by catching female sand flies who carry the parasite that causes the disease. Scientists led by Dr Orin Courtenay of Warwick University and Professor Gordon Hamilton of Lancaster University, developed the concept as part of a £2.5M project funded by The Wellcome Trust and published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. There are now plans to commercialise the research which involves using a synthetic copy of a male pheromone to attract female sand flies towards insecticide-treated areas.

Kenya to launch first integrated vector borne management policy

News Ghana
Kenya on Wednesday announced plans to launch the first integrated vector-borne Management (IVM) policy to help manage such diseases in the country, an official said. Sicily Kariuki, cabinet secretary in the ministry of health said that the draft IVM policy has been developed and is undergoing reviews before its officially launched in 2020. “The outbreaks of diseases such as leishmaniasis, chikungunya, dengue and other hemorrhagic viruses are common in the country hence calling for streamlined strategies,” Kariuki said while opening the first international conference on neglected tropical diseases in Nairobi.

FDA Launches App for Reporting new Uses of Infectious Disease Drugs

Michael Mezher
Regulatory Focus
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Thursday (December 5) launched a new app called CURE ID that allows health care professionals around the world to report novel uses of existing drugs to treat difficult-to-treat infectious diseases. “The CURE ID application focuses on drugs for infectious diseases lacking adequate treatments, including neglected tropical diseases, emerging infectious threats and infectious caused by antimicrobial-resistant organisms,” said FDA Principal Deputy Commissioner Amy Abernethy.

Developing Disease Detective Leaders Across the Globe

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Since 1980, CDC has helped train more than 16,000 disease detectives in over 70 countries through its flagship global Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP). FETPs expand CDC’s reach by training public health professionals to investigate and respond to disease outbreaks and other health threats. Through these programs, countries help fulfill the International Health Regulations (IHR) requirements for disease surveillance and response, and strengthen their capacity: conducting surveillance, analyzing data, and making sound evidence-based decisions. FETPs also work to address the increasingly important burden of noncommunicable diseases.

Upcoming Events 

Universal Health Coverage Day
December 12
Every person—no matter who they are or where they live—should be able to get the quality health services they need without facing financial hardship. Three months after the historic UN High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage, join us on 12 December to tell leaders to Keep the Promise of health for all.

TAS Best Practices Webinar
December 12, Online
Want to improve your understanding of the latest WHO LF survey guidance and best practices?  We invite you to listen to an update from Dr. Jonathan King on World Health Organization (WHO) lymphatic filariasis (LF) survey guidance and best practices and have an opportunity to ask any questions you have.

TAS Best Practices Webinar (Francais)
December 13 À 13:00 heures (temps universel), Online
Rejoignez d’autres gestionnaires de programme régionaux d'élimination de la filariose lymphatique, le personnel de l'Organisation mondiale de la santé, ainsi que des partenaires et les donateurs pour  apprendre les meilleures pratiques en matière d’enquêtes sur la filariose lymphatique.

World Leprosy Day
January 26, 2020
The last Sunday in January was chosen by French humanitarian Raoul Follereau in 1953, as the third Sunday from Epiphany from the Catholic calendar. The Catholic Church then reads the story of the Gospel where Jesus meets and heals a person with leprosy.

World NTD Day
January 30, 2020
Join us to kick off a decisive year in the fight against neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Together, we’ll celebrate hard-earned progress in the face of enormous challenges and take action to #BeatNTDs: For good. For all.

73rd World Health Assembly Executive Board
February 3-8, 2020, Geneva, Switzerland
The Executive Board is composed of 34 technically qualified members elected for three-year terms. The annual Board meeting is held in January when the members agree upon the agenda for the World Health Assembly and the resolutions to be considered by the Health Assembly.

World Health Summit Regional Meeting
April 27-28, 2020, Kampala, Uganda
The central topics of the Regional Meeting 2020 are in line with the African journey towards meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals and achieving universal health coverage. We invite academic institutions, companies, foundations, and other organizations to get involved. If you wish to contribute and become a partner of the Regional Meeting, please get in touch to discuss the opportunites.

73rd World Health Assembly
May 17-20, 2020, Geneva, Switzerland
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.

CHOGM 2020
June 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.

NTD NGO Network Annual Meeting
September 8-10, 2020, Kathmandu, Neoal
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!

11th IAPB General Assembly
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.