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Leprosy Strategy Unveiled by WHO & 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. 

Photo credit: World Health Organization

Lymphatic filariasis

When Tropical Diseases Cause Disabilities, Exposed Women Face Increased Stigma

Aditi Murti
The Swaddle
Living with filaria, a neglected tropical disease (NTD) that causes a highly visible disability, is a gateway to stigma and social isolation. While filaria may not have a medically higher prevalence in women, they are still more likely to be exposed to it due to gender roles.

Evaluating the diagnostic test accuracy of molecular xenomonitoring methods for characterising community burden of LF

Joseph Pryce and Lisa J Reimer
Clinical Infectious Diseases
[Molecular xenomonitoring, or] MX shows clear potential as tool for detecting communities where [lymphatic filariasis, or] LF is present and as a predictor of human [microfilaria, or] mf prevalence.


Scaling-down mass ivermectin treatment for onchocerciasis elimination: modelling the impact ...

Wilma A Stolk et al.
Clinical Infectious Diseases
The geographical scale at which stop-[mass drug administration, or] MDA decisions are made strongly determines how rapidly national onchocerciasis programmes can scale down MDA programmes. Stopping in portions of project areas or transmission zones would free up human and economic resources.

Natural Products That Changed Society

Søren Brøgger Christensen
The discovery of the healing effects of the macrocyclic lactone ivermectin enabled control and partly elimination of the disease by annual mass distribution of the drug.


Geographic Information System-based association between the sewage network, geographical location of intermediate hosts...

Raquel Gardini Sanches Palasio, Aline Nazaré Bortoleto, Roseli Tuan and Francisco Chiaravalloti-Neto
Revista da Sociedade Brasileira de Medicina Tropical
The residence geographical location of autochthonous cases allied with the spatial analysis of IHs and the coverage of the sewage network provide important information for the detection of human-infection areas. Our results demonstrated that the tools used for direct surveillance, control, and elimination of schistosomiasis are appropriate.

Efficacy of praziquantel has been maintained over four decades (from 1977 to 2018): A systematic review and meta-analysis ...

Mizuho FukushigeI et al.
PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases
Based on a review of over 40 years of research there is no evidence to support concerns about schistosomes developing resistance to [praziquantel, or] PZQ. These results indicate that PZQ remains effective in treating schistosomiasis.

Soil-Transmitted Helminthiasis

EUR 2.47 Million Grant Awarded to Swiss TPH for Helminth Research

Jennifer Keiser
Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute
Keiser’s research will focus on improved therapies for soil-transmitted helminthiases, studying the microbiome-driven modulation of anthelminthic treatment, novel treatment options and new technologies in the field of drug discovery as part of the innovative 5-year project called DRUGSBUGS. “The project holds promise for major breakthroughs in anthelminthic drug discovery and development,” said Keiser. “Through our research the next 5 years, we will have a chance to make a considerable public health impact that will result in improved treatments for soil-transmitted helminth infections.”

Spatial scales in human movement between reservoirs of infection

Robert J. Hardwick, Carolin Vegvari, Benjamin Collyer, James E. Truscott and Roy M. Anderson
Journal of Theoretical Biology
Using our model, we vary the spatial scale of human moment defined around focal points and explicitly calculate how varying this definition can influence the temporal stability of the effective transmission dynamics — an effect which should strongly influence how control measures, e.g., mass drug administration (MDA), define evaluation units (EUs).

Intestinal helminthic infection and allergic disorders among school children enrolled in mass deworming program...

Dessie Abera et al.
Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology
While no significant association between self-reported allergy and helminths was found in this study, this may have been due to the low prevalence and intensity of helminthic infection in the sample. There was a positive association between Ascaris lumbricoides and atopy. To further examine the underlying mechanism behind this positive association, a longitudinal study is needed.

Intestinal Helminth Infections and Associated Risk Factors among School-Aged Children of ... Cameroon

Matsinkou Mba Rosine Ruth et al.
Journal of Parasitology Research
The relatively low overall prevalence (11.6%) obtained in this study shows that the national deworming campaign is proving effective, though a more holistic approach is required to prevent infections from bouncing back after such campaigns.

Deworming women of reproductive age during adolescence and pregnancy: what is the impact on morbidity from STH

Carolin Vegvari et al.
Parasites & Vectors
While deworming during pregnancy and lactation does not lead to the achievement of the morbidity target in [women of reproductive age, or ] WRA and its efficacy may vary by setting, it is still expected to be beneficial for maternity and child health. Monitoring of any WRA-based intervention is recommended to evaluate its effectiveness.

Deworming women during pregnancy has a positive effect on child survival and health

Ashok Moloo
World Health Organization
A recent study has found that mothers receiving deworming treatment during pregnancy reduce by 14% the risk of their child dying within the first four weeks after birth. Another benefit is that treating pregnant women with anthelminthic medicines can avoid low birthweight.


The Gambia’s hard work shows other countries can wipe out excruciating eye disease

Isatou Touray
The Telegraph (UK)
So how did we do it? We adopted a four-stage plan based on evidence and expertise.

On Trachoma elimination

The Point (The Gambia)
Global eradication of the strains of Chlamydia that cause trachoma can be achieved, and sooner than previously thought, if we step up interventions in the most affected areas.

Trachoma elimination in The Gambia: sustaining the success story

Sightsavers directors Balla Musa Joof and Phil Downs have 40 years of combined experience working on neglected tropical diseases such as trachoma. Here they reflect on what this achievement means for The Gambia, what measures are needed to make sure trachoma is kept at bay there, and how other countries can learn from the experience and stay resilient during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Gambia’s journey to trachoma elimination

Four people tell their stories about reaching this life-changing milestone.

How The Gambia eliminated trachoma as a public health problem

David Mabey
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
The Gambia has achieved this milestone through a successful and productive partnership between government, NGOs, health care workers, community volunteers and research groups based in the country. This sets a wonderful example to other countries in the region.

Effects of Targeted Antibiotics to Eliminate Community-Wide Trachoma

Rita Aghjayan
Infectious Disease Advisor
To determine whether targeted antibiotic treatments could prevent community transmission of ocular strains of chlamydia that cause trachoma, a team of investigators conducted a cluster-randomized trial. The Targeted Antibiotic Intervention for Trachoma in Under-Fives (TAITU) trial was conducted in 48 Ethiopian communities from November 2015 to March 2018.


Baseline Mapping of Neglected Tropical Diseases in Africa: The Accelerated WHO/AFRO Mapping Project

Maria P. Rebollo et al.
The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
At the end of 2016, most (90%) of the 4,851 districts had completed the WHO-required mapping surveys for the five targeted Preventive Chemotherapy (PC)-NTDs, and the impact of this accelerated WHO/AFRO NTD Mapping Project proved to be much greater than just the detailed mapping results themselves. Indeed, the AFRO Mapping Project dramatically energized and empowered national NTD programs, attracted donor support for expanding these programs, and developed both a robust NTD mapping database and data portal.

Supporting drug development for neglected tropical diseases using mathematical modelling

Martin Walker et al.
Clinical Infectious Diseases
Here, we use illustrative results to show how mathematical modelling can guide the drug development pathway, yielding resource-saving and efficiency payoffs, from the refinement of target product profiles and intended context of use, to the design of clinical trials.

Joining Forces to Fight Disease in Latin America: Q&A with Mundo Sano and The Task Force

The Task Force for Global Health
The Task Force and Mundo Sano Foundation, a family foundation based in Spain and Argentina that works to transform the lives of people affected with neglected diseases, have joined forces to fight diseases in Latin America, signing an agreement earlier in 2021 to strengthen capacities in the region. . . To learn more, we spoke with two Mundo Sano representatives, Executive Director Marcelo Abril and Sebastien Cañón, Responsible for Institutional Relations, and Patrick Lammie, The Task Force’s NTD Support Center’s (NTD-SC) Director.


Leprosy (Hansen’s disease): interrupting transmission and achieving zero autochthonous cases

Ashok Moloo
World Health Organization
The World Health Organization (WHO) has unveiled its new strategy to achieve interruption of transmission and zero new cases for leprosy in more than 100 countries by 2030. The strategy also aims to significantly reduce the disease burden in remaining countries. Following remarkable progress over the past 4 decades, Towards zero leprosy – Global Leprosy (Hansen’s disease) Strategy 2021–2030 moves beyond “elimination as a public health problem”, to motivating high-burden countries and stimulating work in other countries to complete the unfinished task of ending the disease.

Leprosy Screening Based on Artificial Intelligence: Development of a Cross-Platform App

Márcio Luís Moreira De Souza, Gabriel Ayres Lopes, Alexandre Castelo Branco, Jessica K Fairley and Lucia Alves De Oliveira Fraga
JMIR Mhealth Uhealth
The proposed app was able to recognize patterns in leprosy cases registered in the SINAN database and to classify new patients with paucibacillary or multibacillary leprosy, thereby reducing the probability of incorrect assignment by health centers. The collection and notification of data on leprosy in Brazil seem to lack specific validation to increase the quality of the data for implementations via AI. The AI models implemented in this work had satisfactory accuracy across Brazilian states and could be a complementary diagnosis tool, especially in remote areas with few specialist physicians.

Strengthening individual and family resilience against leprosy-related discrimination: A pilot intervention study

Anna T. van’t Noordende et al.
PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases
This pilot study showed that the 10-week family-based intervention to strengthen resilience among persons affected by leprosy and their family members was feasible, and has the potential to improve resilience and quality of life. A large-scale efficacy trial is necessary to determine the effectiveness and long-term sustainability of the intervention.

Physical disabilities caused by leprosy in 100 million cohort in Brazil

Mauro Niskier Sanchez et al.
BMC Infectious Diseases
The findings suggest that the developing of physical disabilities remains a public health problem, which increases the burden of leprosy, mainly for those with severe clinical features and worse socioeconomic conditions. Early diagnosis is paramount to decrease the incidence of leprosy-related disability and our study points to the need for strengthening control actions in non-endemic areas in Brazil, where cases may be missed when presented at early stages in disease. Both actions are needed, to benefit patients and to achieve the WHO goal in reducing physical disabilities among new cases of leprosy.

Amid the Covid clamour, another disease is quietly being conquered

Emeline Wuilbercq
Sunday Times (Johannesburg)
Guinea worm cases fell 50% last year despite the pandemic and campaigners credit community-led efforts for the success.

Opinion: Covid 19's lessons are key to crushing the world's most brutal infectious disease

Uvistra Naidoo and Mark Feinberg
CNN (United States)
The rationale for vaccinating for Covid is the same rationale we should use to make the case for eliminating all preventable diseases everywhere as part of preparing ourselves for any future pandemics. Unless we address infectious diseases in one part of the world, they will come back to bite us in another. TB anywhere is TB everywhere -- until there is a better vaccine.

Samantha Power confirmed to lead US Agency for International Development

Jennifer Hansler
CNN (United States)
Samantha Power on Wednesday was confirmed by the Senate as the new head of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in a 68-26 vote. Power is scheduled to be ceremonially sworn-in to the role of administrator on Monday, according to USAID acting spokesperson Pooja Jhunjhunwala, who said the agency looks forward to “the vast experience she will bring to the role as Administrator.”

Sherrie Silver on personal fight against malaria, new projectsSherrie Silver on personal fight against malaria, new projects

Linda M. Kagire
The New Times (Rwanda)
Rwandan-British dancer and actress Sherrie Silver is among a host of African stars who are up in arms against malaria, another epidemic which they say is being forgotten about due to the Covid-19 pandemic yet still kills hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.

No Chikungunya or Zika Virus Found in Arbovirus Pilot Study

Emily Robie
Duke One Health
To meet this need, biotechnology company Tetracore has developed a system for testing clinical samples simultaneously for the presence of various arboviruses.

New Studies Analyze Effectiveness of Combining Health Campaigns

The Task Force for Global Health
Eight new studies will assess the impact of collaborative planning to maximize health campaigns, with funding from The Task Force’s Health Campaign Effectiveness (HCE) program. A key tool in public health, health campaigns are time-bound, coordinated sets of activities that target resources to achieve specific health goals and are used as a key tool in public health. Over a period of six months, the case studies will investigate efforts to integrate health campaigns for issues such as providing vitamin A supplements, treating lymphatic filariasis, deworming, eradicating polio, screening for hypertension, and providing COVID-19 information.

Ensuring the safety of the new malaria vaccine in Ghana and Malawi

Corinne Merle
Implementation research (IR) is critical to ensuring the safe, effective and timely rollout of the RTS,S malaria vaccine using approaches that are adapted to varying local contexts. The Access and Delivery Partnership has helped to strengthen IR capacities in Ghana and Malawi and development of related research tools.

Call for Submissions: NNN Conference 2021 Workshop

Neglected Tropical Disease NGO Network
To foster high levels of participation to the 2021 conference, we are now calling for workshop proposals in order to develop an engaging agenda. We have secured space for sixteen to twenty 1.5-hour workshops over the first and last day of the three-day conference. The second day of the meeting will be dedicated to disease-specific and cross-cutting groups. The workshops will be structured under the components of the BEST (Behaviour, Environment, Social Inclusion & Equity and Treatment & Care) Framework and all aligned to the theme of the NNN 2021- Enabling a Paradigm Shift to a country-led response to deliver the NTD Road Map We are now accepting proposals for workshops. Submission deadline is Tuesday, June 1st 2021.

Call for experts-Technical and Scientific Advisory Group on the Development of Target Product Profiles for Snake Antivenom

Ashok Moloo
World Health Organization
To register your interest in being considered for the Technical and Scientific Advisory Group on the Development of TPPs for Snake Antivenom Products, please submit by 7 May 2021.


Covid-19: Over 40 governments commit to help India with medical essentials

Indrani Bagchi
Times of India
As India battles, an unprecedented second wave of Covid, over 40 governments have committed to helping out India with essential medical requirements.

Ascend COVID-19 flex: Making social behaviour change more accessible and inclusive

The Ascend COVID-19 response has been highly collaborative and truly pioneering. It is the first time a large-scale integrated NTD programme has delivered a more inclusive and accessible SBC campaign using a mass media approach. Across West and Central Africa, Ministry of Health partners and Ascend consortium partners have been on a learning journey, with many respondents reporting an increase in knowledge, awareness, and capacity on what inclusive and accessible SBC looks like in practice. The experience has helped to define processes and approaches that deliver inclusive and accessible SBC.

COVID-19 and the incidence of neglected tropical diseases: reflections from pandemic times

Gessi Carvalho de Araújo Santos, Sandra Maria Botelho Mariano and José Bruno Nunes Ferreira Silva
ABCS Health Sciences
As of January 6th, 2021, Brazil reported the highest number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)-related deaths in Latin America. Despite mitigating social distancing, quarantine, and isolation, COVID-19 continues to spread across the country and worldwide. This scenario could overload the Brazilian National Health System in tropical regions where populations are frequently affected by emerging or reemerging arboviral or parasitic diseases. Therefore, in addition to the threat posed by COVID-19, turning into a new neglected tropical disease (NTD) in low- and middle-income countries, increased focus of health systems on mitigating this viral threat could negatively affect existing NTD-related programs.

Antimicrobial Resistance: Another Long-Term Consequence of COVID-19?

Enis Baris
World Bank Blogs
All point in the right direction: we must invest in preparedness to avoid outbreaks evolving into epidemics, let alone into pandemics, and causing catastrophe on a global scale. This involves not just identifying effective tools for the disease at issue, but also considering unintended consequences, or sequalae, such as Antimicrobial Resistance.

Duke One Health Team Members Propose New Approach to Mitigating Future Pandemics

Anfal Abdelgadir
Duke One Health
Last month, Duke One Health team members Professor Gregory Gray, Emily Robie, Caleb Studstill, and Professor Charles Nunn, published a paper titled “Mitigating Future Respiratory Virus Pandemics: New Threats and Approaches to Consider” in the journal Viruses. The paper discusses the impact of respiratory viruses, reviews current efforts for pathogen discovery and prevention, and proposes new approaches for predicting and mitigating the next emerging respiratory virus threats.

90 percent of countries’ health services continue to be disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic: WHO

UN News
There are some signs of progress however: in 2020, countries surveyed reported that, on average, about half of essential health services were disrupted. In the first 3 months of 2021, that figure had dropped to just over one third of services.

Podcast: Research in the time of COVID-19

The first episode of Global Health Matters takes us on a journey to Somalia, India and Benin to explore how researchers have adapted to one of the greatest challenges we have ever faced — the COVID-19 pandemic. Join Dr Garry Aslanyan and his expert panel of guests as they discuss the innovative approaches they have taken to continue their work amid the crisis.


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

Powering Vaccine R&D: A Discussion on the Future of the Global Vaccine R&D Ecosystem
May 5, 2021
The Sabin-Aspen Vaccine Science & Policy Group

Another dengue outbreak in Eastern Ethiopia: an emerging public health threat
May 6, 2021
The International Society for Neglected Tropical Diseases

Workshop: Female Genital Schistosomiasis
May 4-11, 2021
The Geneva Learning Foundation

Not just neglected but forgotten. Cross-cutting approaches towards UHC: a new strategy for podoconiosis 
May 12, 2021
Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene

The Future of Global Health Diplomacy
May 13, 2021
Women in Global Health

Addressing the issue of 'systematic non-compliance' in mass drug administration for lymphatic filariasis
May 13, 2021
iCHORDs and the Coalition for Operational Research on Neglected Tropical Diseases

Rising to the challenge: A year of NTD programming and research during COVID
June 10, 2021
Neglected Tropical Disease NGO Network and the Coalition for Operational Research on Neglected Tropical Diseases

Topics in Infection 2021
June 18, 2021
The Royal Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene

Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting 2021 
June 20-26, 2021
The Commonwealth

World Field Epidemiology Day 
September 7, 2021
Training Programs in Epidemiology and Public Health Interventions Network

NTD NGO Network Conference 2021
September 7-9, 2021
Neglected Tropical Disease NGO Network

COR-NTD 2021 Virtual Meeting
November 8-10, 2021
Coalition for Operational Research on Neglected Tropical Diseases

American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene Annual Meeting
November 17-21, 2021
American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene

International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases
March 6-9, 2022
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

FREE ONLINE COURSE: Eliminating Trachoma
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine 

FREE ONLINE COURSE: Improving the Health of Women, Children and Adolescents: from Evidence to Action.
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine 

FREE ONLINE COURSE: Neglected tropical diseases in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic: impact and guidance
World Health Organization