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Focus Shifts for Schistosomiasis Control Efforts & 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.

A shortlist of about 15 submissions per category has been selected for the Health for All Film Festival out of 1265 entries received. Meet the researchers who didn’t give up, and the doctors who believed their patients deserved the best medicine. 

DNDi/Health for All Film Festival

Lymphatic filariasis

Economic benefits and costs of surgery for filarial hydrocele in Malawi

Larry Sawers et al.
PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases
We calculated lost earnings over the lifetime due to filarial hydrocele and compared it to the costs of surgery to determine the benefit-cost ratio. The ratio of the benefit of surgery to its cost is US$1684/US$68 or 24.8. The results are robust to variations in cost of surgery and length of working life. Scaling up subsidies to hydrocelectomy campaigns should be a priority for governments and international aid organizations to prevent and alleviate disability and lost earnings that aggravate poverty among the many millions of men with filarial hydrocele, their families, and their communities.

Onchocerciasis

Call for Nominations for the Mectizan Award

The Mectizan Donation Program
The Mectizan Award is given by Merck & Co., Inc. to recognize individual contributions to the elimination of onchocerciasis or lymphatic filariasis. We welcome you to submit nominations based on the criteria listed on the form below. All nominations received by the Mectizan Donation Program will be screened to ensure that they meet the established criteria and will then be reviewed by Merck & Co., Inc., the Mectizan Donation Program, and the Mectizan Expert Committee Chair for selection of the recipient. The deadline for all nominations is August 1st, 2020.

Schistosomiasis

Schistosomiasis elimination: refocusing on snail control to sustain progress

Ashok Moloo
World Health Organization
Substantial progress has been made during the past decade to prevent and control schistosomiasis (also known as bilharziasis) globally. The disease affects more than 230 million people, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. . . “Through progressive scale-up of periodic large-scale treatment to control morbidity in many endemic countries, we are closer to achieving the minimum target of 75% global coverage of all school‐aged children,” said Dr Amadou Garba Djirmay, who leads WHO’s global schistosomiasis control programme. “But if we want to achieve elimination, we must go a step further to introduce snail control in hot spots and in areas targeting elimination. This is bound to increase impact and accelerate progress towards interruption of transmission.”

Efficacy of single versus four repeated doses of praziquantel against Schistosoma mansoni infection in school-aged children. . .

Pytsje T. Hoekstra et al.
PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases
During baseline screening, 1,022 children were assessed for eligibility of whom 153 (15%) had a detectable S. mansoni infection, and hence, were randomized to the standard treatment group (N = 70) and the intense treatment group (N = 83). Based on KK, the CR was 42% (95% confidence interval (CI) 31–52%) in the standard treatment group and 86% (95% CI 75–92%) in the intense treatment group. Observed IRR was 72% (95% CI 55–83%) in the standard treatment group and 95% (95% CI 85–98%) in the intense treatment group. The CR estimated by POC-CCA was 18% (95% CI 11–27%) and 36% (95% CI 26–46%) in the standard and intense treatment group, respectively. Repeated PZQ treatment did not result in a higher number of adverse events.

Acute schistosomiasis: Which molecular diagnostic test is best and why

Russell Stothard and Bonnie Webster
Clinical Infectious Diseases
As with all diagnostics, if there is sufficient incentive to embed a diagnostic method into routine travel clinic practice, it should meet the [Affordable, Sensitive, Specific, User-friendly, Rapid and robust, Equipment-free and Deliverable to end-users, or] ASSURED criteria, perhaps with affordability being of principal concern. Unfortunately, without automation, such liquid handling and electrophoretic steps are drawbacks especially for large scale screening. However, another open question stands - how effective are these molecular methods assessing efficacy of treatment given that Schistosoma DNA signatures can endure after worm death. Whilst schistosome DNA might be a ‘quick’ marker of infection it is a ‘slow’ marker of cure. Other molecular targets such as the schistosome circulating anodic antigen (CAA), found in the vomitus of feeding worms, has merit as both sensitive marker of infection and cure but unfortunately cannot differentiate between schistosome species. Thus, our diagnostic armamentarium for acute schistosomiasis, notwithstanding those infections caused by S. japonicum or other species within the S. haematobium group, remains incomplete.

Soil-Transmitted Helminthiasis

The Geshiyaro Project: Why water, sanitation & hygiene are critical to achieve health for all

Sahra Mohamed
London Centre for Neglected Tropical Disease Research
The association between WaSH and NTDs has been widely documented, with recent evidence suggesting(link is external) that access to piped water, improved sanitation, and handwashing with soap, are associated with a 33–70% lower risk of soil-transmitted helminths (STH) infections. In the Wolaita Zone of Ethiopia, a new research initiative has been developed to understand whether WaSH and NTDs coordination can contribute to the interruption of STH and schistosome transmission. With funding from the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), the Geshiyaro Project(link is external) is assessing the optimal provision of interventions, including preventive chemotherapy with high population level coverage, together with WaSH and changes to public behaviour.

Trachoma

The friend next door: how Ekeno’s neighbour saved her sight

Sightsavers
For Ekeno Morunyang, the deterioration in her sight happened slowly. As a young woman, she experienced a reddening of the eyes, and constant tearing soon followed. As her symptoms worsened so did her pain. . . One day when Ekeno was resting, she caught the attention of her neighbour, Susan Lokale, who wondered why her friend was sleeping during the day. Until recently, trachoma was endemic in Turkana, and through Kenya’s national trachoma elimination programme, Susan had been recruited as a community health worker. Her role involves identifying those with trachoma-like symptoms to link them to treatment, and teaching others how to clean their faces, hands and clothes to prevent the disease from spreading.

Cross-cutting

These diseases that affect 1.5 billion people affect one group the most

Ciku Kimeria
African Arguments
Women bear the biggest burden from neglected tropical diseases, not only due to biological and physical factors, but also socio-cultural norms. For example, women and girls perform two-thirds of water collection, giving them greater exposure to water-borne diseases such as schistosomiasis, commonly known as bilharzia. Women are also more likely to be primary care-givers, while girls are more likely to drop out of school to take care of sick family members, increasing their exposure to such diseases.

Whose Research Is it? Power, Authority and Voice

Shahreen Chowdhury and Helen Piotrowski
COUNTDOWN
Marginalised groups, such as people living with dementia and disability are often excluded from the research process, especially data analysis. Data analysis is regarded as requiring critical, analytical, and conceptual thinking which many assume that people considered to be vulnerable cannot take part. However. . . people with dementia are not a homogenous group and many if not all have skills and abilities that are essential in participatory analysis processes. Moreover, in order to have people centred approaches to health system design, research processes need to be inclusive. This principle is paramount to COUNTDOWN’s philosophy in supporting Neglected Tropical Disease programs to be equitable through promoting the voices of communities affected. However, in order for analysis to be inclusive, it needs to be accessible and creative.

The Human Need for Storytelling: Creative Narratives of NTDs

Kelly Smyth
COUNTDOWN
On 2nd and 3rd March, the International Society for Neglected Tropical Diseases held the ISNTD Festival 2020 - a 2-day event hosted at the Wellcome Trust, London which focused on creative industries for global health. One of the most-explored concepts at the event was storytelling in the world of NTDs and the various ways we can use it to benefit research and health. . . Listening to all the innovative ideas and creative methods of health communications, it struck me that there was a common theme within them- storytelling. Stories are not only a form of entertainment but also a way to connect with others, and they are important in health communications as they help us to realise we are not alone, that there are others going through similar experiences.

Other

Rifampicin and clarithromycin (extended release) versus rifampicin and streptomycin for limited Buruli ulcer lesions. . .

Prof Richard O Phillips et al.
The Lancet
We did an open-label, non-inferiority, randomised (1:1 with blocks of six), multicentre, phase 3 clinical trial comparing fully oral [rifampicin 10 mg/kg plus clarithromycin 15 mg/kg extended release once daily for 8 weeks, or] RC8 with [oral rifampicin 10 mg/kg plus intramuscular streptomycin 15 mg/kg once daily for 8 weeks, or] RS8 in patients with early, limited Buruli ulcer lesions. There were four trial sites in hospitals in Ghana (Agogo, Tepa, Nkawie, Dunkwa) and one in Benin (Pobè). . . Fully oral RC8 regimen was non-inferior to RS8 for treatment of early, limited Buruli ulcer and was associated with fewer adverse events. Therefore, we propose that fully oral RC8 should be the preferred therapy for early, limited lesions of Buruli ulcer.

Gates Foundation enlists Novartis, GSK, others in COVID-19 fight

Jenni Spinner
OutSourcing-Pharma.com
The global collaboration brings together several pharmaceutical giants to accelerate the development and delivery of coronavirus tests and therapies.

31 questions and answers about COVID-19

Bill Gates
Gates Notes
Yesterday I did a Reddit Ask Me Anything session on COVID-19. As usual, Redditors asked a lot of smart questions, and it was a great opportunity to have a fact-based discussion about this pandemic and what we can do to prevent the next one. (And as I mentioned in this exchange, it’s nice to have so many positive interactions in such an uncertain time.) Below is a transcript of all the questions I could get to (lightly edited for length), along with my answers. I’ll be sharing more about COVID-19 here on the Gates Notes and on my social channels. In the meantime, stay healthy and keep washing your hands!

Asymptomatic and Presymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 Infections in Residents of a Long-Term Care Skilled Nursing Facility. . .

Anne Kimball et al.
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR)
Once SARS-CoV-2 is introduced in a long-term care skilled nursing facility (SNF), rapid transmission can occur. Following identification of a case of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in a health care worker, 76 of 82 residents of an SNF were tested for SARS-CoV-2; 23 (30.3%) had positive test results, approximately half of whom were asymptomatic or presymptomatic on the day of testing. Symptom-based screening of SNF residents might fail to identify all SARS-CoV-2 infections. Asymptomatic and presymptomatic SNF residents might contribute to SARS-CoV-2 transmission. Once a facility has confirmed a COVID-19 case, all residents should be cared for using CDC-recommended personal protective equipment (PPE), with considerations for extended use or reuse of PPE as needed.

Coronavirus

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Emerging Infectious Diseases
Emerging Infectious Diseases journal created this spotlight to make it easier for readers to locate articles about coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) as well as other coronavirus diseases in both humans and animals.

WHO urges African countries to scale up COVID-19 response

World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa
The African region is witnessing a rapid rise in the number of reported confirmed COVID-19 cases, with a 25% daily increase over the past five days. Today, 39 countries reported a total of 216 cases in the past 24 hours, this a significant increase from a month ago, when one country in the region was reporting a handful of cases. Since the start of the outbreak, 39 countries have reported more than 1 800 cases of COVID-19, and there have been 31 deaths. As the world races to stem the spread of the virus, the World Health Organization (WHO) in the African Region is calling on countries to implement critical actions in the next two weeks while there is still time to prevent the outbreak in the region from overwhelming health services.

COVID-19 gives the lie to global health expertise

Sarah L Dalglish
The Lancet
Asian countries, including China, South Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan, have provided rapid, effective, and often innovative responses, thanks in part to their recent experience with outbreaks of Middle East respiratory syndrome in 2015 and the 2002–03 severe acute respiratory syndrome epidemic. China has convened hundreds of foreign officials to share lessons, and dispatched experts, masks and other supplies to Italy and other affected countries. Cuba has also sent doctors to help with the response, and welcomed sick cruise ship passengers refused entry by the USA. Although it is too early to assess the strength of the COVID-19 response in Africa, African countries, despite limited resources, have also adopted measures worth imitating, such as simplified triage strategies and proactive screening (Uganda), handwashing stations at transport hubs (Rwanda), WhatsApp chatbots providing reliable information and rapid testing diagnostics (Senegal), and volunteer-staffed call centres and celebrity campaigns to promote responsible actions during the pandemic (Nigeria).

Podcast: Dr. Karen DeSalvo’s reflections on Public Health 3.0 and vision for the future of informatics

Piper Hale
Inform Me, Informatics
Public Health 3.0 describes an innovative model of public health that integrates social determinants of health with health IT and public health informatics. The architect of this plan, former Acting Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Services and the former director of the ONC, Dr. Karen DeSalvo, joined “Inform Me, Informatics” recently to reflect on the legacy of Public Health 3.0 and to share her vision for the future of public health informatics. During the course of our conversation, she also shared stories from her time as Health Commissioner in New Orleans and some great advice for the next generation of informaticians. Dr. DeSalvo recently left the public and academic sectors to become the first Chief Health Officer at Google.

Upcoming Events 

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

Global open-source collaboration in vectors and vector-borne diseases
March 31, 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.

Leishmaniasis surveillance
April 2, 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.

Leprosy Research Initiative Spring Meeting - CANCELLED
April 2-3, 2020, Breukelen, Netherlands
On the 2nd and 3rd of April 2020 the Leprosy Research Initiative (LRI) is organising its fifth annual Spring Meeting at Van der Valk Hotel Breukelen in the Netherlands. During this meeting, the progress and results of currently ongoing LRI funded research projects will be presented to the LRI Scientific Review Committee, the LRI Steering Committee and representatives from all funded research groups. For the third time the principal investigators of R2STOP funded research projects will join the meeting as well and share their research findings. The meeting also offers great opportunities to meet with and learn from fellow researchers and stimulates participants to engage in lively discussions, and to share ideas between researchers, funders and other stakeholders.

Mwele Malecela: Neglected Tropical Diseases
April 9, 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.

World Chagas Disease Day
April 14, 2020
For the first time, the global community is preparing to celebrate 14 April as the  first  World Chagas Disease Day. One of the aims is to raise the visibility and public awareness of people with Chagas Disease and the resources needed for the prevention, control or elimination of the disease.

Handwashing Session
April 14, 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.

British Society for Parasitology Spring Meeting - CANCELLED
April 14-17, 2020, Edinburgh, Scotland
The 2020 Spring meeting of the British Society for Parasitology will be held in the city of Edinburgh, UK. Edinburgh boasts a long association with parasitology including the study of malaria, a relationship that will be celebrated with a special stream running throughout the meeting focused on and around Plasmodium.

World Health Summit Regional Meeting - POSTPONED
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.

Bill Foege Global Health Awards
April 30, 2020, Atlanta, GA
MAP International annually presents the Bill Foege Global Health Awards to recognize people and organizations whose contributions to the progress of global health measure substantially. Leaders in the global health community consider Dr. Bill Foege as a folk hero in the global health community, crediting him as "the man most responsible for eradicating smallpox."

Beijing +25 Mexico Forum
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
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.

6th World One Health Congress
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
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
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
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.