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Ladybugs Against Schistosomiasis, Magnets Against Leishmaniaisis & 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.  


Magnet Schematic by Helen Price

Schematic showing the principle of magnetic hyperthermia in Leishmania-infected macrophages 


Lymphatic filariasis

Elimination of lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem in Niue under PacELF, 1999–2016

Catherine N. Carlingford et al.
Tropical Medicine and Health
Niue is a small self-governing South Pacific island nation with approximately 1600 residents that was formerly LF endemic. Here, we review the progress made towards eliminating LF in Niue since 1999. After five rounds of MDA, Niue had reduced the LF antigen population prevalence in all ages from 3.1% to below 1% and maintained this prevalence for a further five years. Due to Niue’s small population, surveillance was done by whole population surveys. Niue’s results support the WHO recommended strategy that five to six rounds of annual MDA with effective population coverage can successfully interrupt the transmission of LF.

Third drug added as anti-filaria campaign seeks to extend geographic coverage

Stabroek News (Guyana)
Deputy Chief Medical Officer (DCMO) Karen Gordon-Boyle told reporters at a press conference yesterday that if Guyana is to achieve its goal of being a non-endemic country for filariasis, it needs to move beyond fighting the disease only in the more urban areas of regions Three, Four, Five and Ten. She noted that while the current method has resulted in 86 per cent coverage in the four regions targeted, it would take another three years to target the entire country using this strategy. As a result, the [mass drug administration, or] MDA, which previously only used Albendazole and Diethylcarbamazine Citrate (DEC), is now being augmented to triple drug therapy.


Research into tropical eye worm yields new tests to assess safety of anti-filarial drugs

Researchers at the LSTM's Centre for Drugs and Diagnostics, and University of Buea, Cameroon have developed new models of the tropical eye worm, Loa loa for the development of new drugs against filariasis. . . It is intended that the new models will accelerate the development of urgently needed alternative interventions, including novel therapies which are safe in loiasis patients, to accelerate elimination of river blindness in Central Africa.

Tackling river blindness in a country ravaged by Ebola

Lincoln Gankpala
Thomas Reuters Foundation News
"I remember one village where more than five people had gone blind. It also causes skin irritation and pain, I have seen people scratching skin until they bleed. When we heard the news about Ebola we stopped everything we were doing – I knew immediately that we had to. No one could work, even though patients needed the treatment we were giving them. We were afraid because we knew what Ebola was. Treating people for river blindness means dealing with blood, doing medical tests and injections. People could get infected and we couldn’t take those kinds of risks. . .It was a terrible time. We were constantly scared someone might be sick, and that we couldn’t help them." - Lincoln Gankpala is health lab technician at the Liberian Ministry of Health. He is currently undergoing technical surveys implemented by Sightsavers.

Vision impairment through a gender lens

Helen Castell
The higher prevalence among women of some infectious diseases is partly due to traditional roles. For example, caring for children exposes women to hygiene risks that increase the chance of contracting trachoma, as does eye irritation caused by cooking over wood fires, explained Jennifer Gersbeck, director of global partnerships and advocacy at the Fred Hollows Foundation and co-chair of the gender equity work group at the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness. Collecting water or washing clothes can also put women in greater contact with blackflies, whose bite transmits the parasite that causes onchocerciasis or river blindness.


Lady beetle-derived harmonine affects survival, reproduction and stem cell proliferation of Schistosoma mansoni

Josina Kellershohn et al.
PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases
Testing the antiparasitic potential of harmonine against adult Schistosoma mansoni, one of the most harmful helminths worldwide, resulted in multifaceted negative effects. The compound damaged tissues essential for survival and reproduction of schistosomes (tegument, intestine, gonads) and also affected stem-cell proliferation. Furthermore, we obtained first evidence for acetylcholinesterase as one potential molecular target, which was partially inhibited by harmonine. This is the first time to proof a direct effect of a defined insect-derived compound on a helminth parasite, a finding that will encourage further studies to explore insects as sources of novel anthelminthics.

A major hurdle in the elimination of urogenital schistosomiasis revealed: Identifying key gaps in knowledge. . .

Vida Ami Kukula et al.
PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases
Urogenital schistosomiasis is endemic throughout Ghana with elevated infection levels in certain areas e.g. Lake Volta Region. While the primary focus of the national control program is on mass drug administration of praziquantel to school-aged children, Female Genital Schistosomiasis (FGS), a disease-specific affliction of girls and women, has been largely overlooked. To better focus future actions, our study investigated the perceptions, knowledge and understanding of FGS amongst community members and health providers.

Q&A: ‘Let your work speak for itself’

Sam Otieno
"My collaborative work on the most important worm infection in Africa, schistosomiasis, has been translated into significant health improvements for millions of African children. Most notably, the work has led to the WHO revising the paediatric treatment guidelines for schistosomiasis. Prior to my collaborative studies, children below five years old were excluded from treatment, with the drug of choice, praziquantel." - Francisca Mutapi is the first Black woman professor at the University of Edinburgh

Soil-Transmitted Helminthiasis

Efficacy and safety of ivermectin and albendazole co-administration in school-aged children & adults infected with Trichuris...

Chandni Patel et al.
BMC Infectious Diseases
With the scaling up of [preventive chemotherapy, or] PC programs, mounting drug pressure increases the risk for drug resistance against the benzimidazoles in populations infected by STHs. Nonetheless, combination treatment of two or more drugs can provide heightened efficacy and protection against drug resistance. Our data will provide robust evidence on the possible increased efficacy and extended effects of combined albendazole and ivermectin treatment when compared to albendazole alone to pave the way of the former as recommended treatment for soil-transmitted helminthiasis for use in control programs.


Self-Reported Side Effects following Mass Administration of Azithromycin to Eliminate Trachoma in Amhara, Ethiopia. . .

Tigist Astale et al.
The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
Our survey was conducted to better understand the side effects among a sample relevant for large trachoma control programs. Several zones had a prevalence of side effects > 10%, and thus increased follow-up and health education may be warranted before a fear of side effects becomes a barrier to high coverage. The most commonly reported side effects within our survey were similar to those reported in different trachoma-specific settings. Although these side effects are not ideal, it has been noted that some beneficiaries take these side effects as a sign that the medications are working.

West Pokot rolls out Sh11.5m drive to prevent trachoma

Maryann Chai
The Star (Kenya)
A five-day trachoma education programme has started in West Pokot targeting 600,000 people. The county government will spend Sh11.5 million on the programme in which medics are distributing drugs door-to-door. . . The team expects to conduct 1,500 surgeries on those at risk of losing their sight due to trachoma. The exercise is a collaboration of the county health officials and Fred Hollows Foundation.

Trachoma baseline survey begins

Sharon Buwerimwe
The Chronicle (Zimbabwe)
Government started undertaking a trachoma baseline survey in 20 districts last week to establish the prevalence and distribution of the tropical disease in the country. . . “The country is going through a nationwide drive to push for WHO recommended planning and implementation strategy known as Surgery, Antibiotics, Facial cleanliness and Environmental improvements (SAFE) in targeted districts. As straight forward as the SAFE sounds, a significant rollout of all components of SAFE is needed in communities suffering from trachoma,” said [Deputy Director in charge of Communicable Diseases in the Ministry of Health and Child Care] Dr Phiri.

Eye health experts call for $86 million to increase services for Indigenous communities

Joy Joshi and Maani Truu
SBS News
Eye health organisations and Indigenous advocacy groups have called for almost $86 million in funding to increase eye health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The five-year plan, released by the national peak body for the vision care sector, aims to deliver more eye care services to Indigenous people, support them to access the services and eliminate trachoma by 2020.

Preventing Blindness in Developing Countries: Spotlight on ITI Supply Chain Manager, Carla Johnson

The Task Force for Global Health
In 2017, ITI implemented The Zithromax® Shipment Tracker, a web-based solution that lets subscribers in receiving countries track the status of incoming donations via a computer or smartphone. The technology has already earned recognition, winning an innovation award from the Gartner Group and another award for supply chain excellence from the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, APICS, and Council of Supply Chain Professionals Atlanta Roundtable. . . “One of the things I really love about the work I do is seeing people’s lives change,” she adds. “I’ve heard stories about villages where so many people once had trachoma and every family was affected by vision loss or disability. Now you have an entire generation of children who could quite possibly never experience trachoma. And that has happened in just a few short years of focused effort.”


Neglected tropical diseases and disability—what is the link?

Hannah Kuper
Transactions of The Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
[Neglected tropical disease, or] NTD programmes need to identify the most common barriers and put in place mechanisms to overcome these barriers. For instance, programmes may have to tackle physical barriers (e.g. ensuring treatment distribution points are accessible), provide communications in a range of formats (e.g. visual, radio) and include images of people with disabilities in campaign pictures to highlight that the programme is for everyone. These changes will make NTD programmes more accessible to people with disabilities, but will also improve inclusion for other people, such as older people, minority language speakers and people with short-term health conditions, and so improve the overall reach of NTD programmes. People with disabilities must be included in the planning, and potentially the delivery, of NTD programmes, to ensure that the key barriers are identified and appropriately addressed.

Profiling the best-performing community medicine distributors for mass drug administration. . .

Goylette F. Chami, Narcis B. Kabatereine and Edridah M. Tukahebwa
BMC Medicine
The most prevalent neglected tropical diseases are treated through blanket drug distribution that is reliant on lay community medicine distributors (CMDs). . . These findings profile CMDs who treat the most people during routine MDA. . . Engaging CMD friend groups with MDA, selecting CMDs who practise good preventative health behaviours, and including CMDs with high-risk occupations for endemic infections may improve MDA treatment rates.

WHO Launches New Portal To Track Progress

Odri Uchenunu-Ibeh
Leadership (Nigeria)
ESPEN Team Leader at WHO, Dr. Maria Rebollo Polo, said, “It is critical that countries do more to combat the variety of NTDs that are sadly still so prevalent across Africa, causing their citizens severe disabilities and sometimes their lives. Access to updated and more accurate data is vital for countries to implement strategic plans that can truly help to save lives and eliminate NTDs. We encourage NTD elimination programs across Africa to utilize this innovative tool so that their research and investments result in real impact and can be coordinated in the most efficient way, making the most of often scarce resources.”

GHIT Fund Announces New Investments: A Total of 2.86 Billion Yen in Drug for Schistosomiasis, Dengue, Malaria and Tuberculosis

PR Newswire
The Global Health Innovative Technology (GHIT) Fund announced today a total of 2.86 billion yen (US$25.8 million*) to support 10 partnerships to develop new lifesaving drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics for malaria, tuberculosis, dengue, leishmaniasis, and schistosomiasis. This includes three new projects and seven that will receive continued funding.


Can we treat leishmaniasis with tiny magnets?

Helen Price
In our recent paper, we describe a novel method for killing Leishmania in the lab using a technique called magnetic hyperthermia, which is also being developed as a novel cancer therapy. This process involves the use of tiny iron-based particles known as magnetic nanoparticles. In the presence of an alternating magnetic field, these nanoparticles become magnetised and then relax, releasing localised heat into the cellular environment. Our results showed that a combination of magnetic nanoparticles and an alternating magnetic field is very effective at killing in vitro cultured parasites, with changes in morphology similar to those killed by conventional heat treatment.

Development and evaluation of a droplet digital PCR assay for the diagnosis of paucibacillary leprosy in skin biopsy specimens

Xiujun Cheng et al.
PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases
The reduced amounts of Mycobacterium leprae (M. leprae) among paucibacillary (PB) patients reflect the need to further optimize methods for leprosy diagnosis. An increasing number of reports have shown that droplet digital polymerase chain reaction (ddPCR) is a promising tool for diagnosis of infectious disease among samples with low copy number. To date, no publications have investigated the utility of ddPCR in the detection of M. leprae. The aim of this study was to develop and evaluate a ddPCR assay for the diagnosis of PB leprosy.

Global expansion and redistribution of Aedes-borne virus transmission risk with climate change

Sadie J. Ryan, Colin J. Carlson, Erin A. Moredcai, and Leah R. Johnson
PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases
Here, we show more subtle impacts of climate change on transmission, caused primarily by differences between the more heat-tolerant Aedes aegypti and the more heat-limited Ae. albopictus...Overall, our findings support the expectation that climate change will expand and increase Aedes-borne viral transmission risk.

Effect of P. falciparum sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine resistance on the effectiveness of intermittent preventive therapy. . .

Anna Maria van Eijk et al.
The Lancet
Resistance of Plasmodium falciparum to sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine threatens the antimalarial effectiveness of intermittent preventive treatment during pregnancy (IPTp) in sub-Saharan Africa. We aimed to assess the associations between markers of sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine resistance in P falciparum and the effectiveness of sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine IPTp for malaria-associated outcomes.

Geographical distribution and prevalence of podoconiosis in Rwanda: a cross-sectional country-wide survey

Kebede Deribe et al.
The Lancet
We did a population-based cross-sectional survey to determine the national prevalence of podoconiosis. A podoconiosis case was defined as a person with bilateral, asymmetrical lymphoedema of the lower limb present for more than 1 year, who tested negative for Wuchereria bancrofti antigen (determined by Filariasis Test Strip) and specific IgG4 (determined by Wb123 test), and had a history of any of the associated clinical signs and symptoms. . . Podoconiosis was found to be widespread in Rwanda.

Upcoming Events 

World Health Day
April 7, 2019
Universal health coverage is WHO’s number one goal. Key to achieving it is ensuring that everyone can obtain the care they need, when they need it, right in the heart of the community.Progress is being made in countries in all regions of the world.But millions of people still have no access at all to health care. Millions more are forced to choose between health care and other daily expenses such as food, clothing and even a home.This is why WHO is focusing on universal health coverage for this year’s World Health Day, on 7 April.

22nd Meeting of the WHO Alliance for the Global Elimination of Trachoma by 2020 (GET2020)
April 9-11, 2019, Maputo, Mozambique 
The purpose is to monitor progress towards elimination of trachoma at global level, exchange information and experience on SAFE (surgery, antibiotics, facial cleanliness, environmental improvement) strategy implementation, review partnership opportunities at global, regional and national levels, and discuss obstacles and barriers to the achievements of the elimination of trachoma as a public health problem by 2020.

Mobile to Multiplex: Accelerating Innovation in Global Diagnostics
April 11, 2019, Decatur, Georgia
Join experts from nongovernmental organizations, industry, and government as they examine how to meet the needs for diagnostics in global health in the absence of resources to develop these technologies. A panel of the world’s leading diagnostic experts will examine this issue from multiple perspectives and offer solutions for accelerating innovation in this space.

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.

WHO AFRO NTD Biennial Programme Managers Meeting
July 15-19, 2019, Location TBA
Please hold the week of July 15, 2019 as the World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa will be holding its Biennial NTD Programme Managers Meeting. This meeting will focus on Preventive Chemotherapy and Case Management diseases. We will be in touch soon to confirm the location and share all relevant documents.

11th European Congress on Tropical Medicine and International Health
September 16-20, 2019, Liverpool, UK 
RSTMH is hosting the 11th ECTMIH in 2019, on behalf of the Federation of European Societies for Tropical Medicine and International Health (FESTMIH), at the ACC in Liverpool, UK. Every two years, ECTMIH 2019 brings together more than 1,500 scientists and experts from across the world. The Congress provides a platform for sharing research and innovation in the field of tropical medicine and global health.

The 10th NTD NGO Network (NNN) Conference
September 17-19, 2019, Liverpool, UK 
The chosen theme for the 2019 conference is 'Our vision beyond 2020: many partners, one voice'

6th International Symposium on One Health Research
September 18-19, 2019, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
An opportunity for foreign scientists to interact closely with high-ranking Mongolian leaders who specialize in human and animal research leading to numerous research collaborations and discoveries.

IAPB Council of Members 2019
October 5-8, 2019, Nairobi, Kenya
The next Council of Members will be held 5-8 October 2019 in Nairobi, alongside local partners Sightsavers.

ASTMH 68th Annual Meeting
November 20-24, 2019, National Harbor, Maryland
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. 

Epidemics7: International Conference on Infectious Disease Dynamics
December 3-6, 2019, Charleston, SC
Join us for the Seventh International Conference on Infectious Disease Dynamics to share another three days of intense dialogue on our ideas, data, insight, models and methods. This conference regularly attracts over 400 scientists, with representatives from many of the major research groups in this area worldwide. If you want to meet many of your peers in this field, this is the place to go. 

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”.