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Malawi Eliminates Lymphatic Filariasis & 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.

First UN solidarity flight departs with COVID-19 medical supplies


Lymphatic filariasis

Malawi eliminates lymphatic filariasis (LF)

Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared that Malawi has eliminated lymphatic filariasis (LF) as a public health problem. . . Malawi’s LF programme of mass drug administration started in 2008, using a combination of ivermectin and albendazole to treat the entire at-risk population, which were spread across 26 of Malawi’s 28 districts. After more than 10 years of supporting the LF programme in Malawi, CNTD worked with the Malawian Ministry of Health to prepare the LF elimination dossier, which was sent to the WHO and reviewed by an external panel of experts, who were able to conclude that the country had met the criteria for the elimination of LF as a public health problem.

Low transmission of Wuchereria bancrofti in cross-border districts of Côte d’Ivoire: A great step...

Firmain N. Yokoloy
Lymphatic filariasis (LF) is widely endemic in Côte d’Ivoire, and elimination as public health problem (EPHP) is based on annual mass drug administration (MDA) using ivermectin and albendazole. To guide EPHP efforts, we evaluated Wuchereria bancrofti infection indices among humans, and mosquito vectors after four rounds of MDA in four cross-border health districts of Côte d’Ivoire. . . Overall, we found a substantial decline in W. bancrofti infection indices after four rounds of MDA compared to pre-MDA baseline data. [Circulating filarial antigen, or] CFA prevalence fell from 3.38–5.50% during pre-MDA to 0.00–1.53% after MDA interventions.

Potential strategies for strengthening surveillance of lymphatic filariasis in American Samoa after mass drug administration...

Colleen Lau et al.
medRXiv [pre-print]
Under the Global Programme to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis (LF), American Samoa conducted mass drug administration (MDA) from 2000-2006. Despite passing Transmission Assessment Surveys (TAS) in 2011/2012 and 2015, American Samoa failed TAS-3 in 2016, with antigen (Ag) prevalence of 0.7% (95%CI 0.3-1.8%) in 6-7 year-olds. A 2016 community survey (Ag prevalence 6.2% (95%CI 4.4-8.5%) in people 8 years and older) confirmed resurgence. Here, we explore the potential of targeted strategies to strengthen post-MDA surveillance. . . We propose a multi-stage surveillance strategy, starting with population-representative sampling (e.g. TAS), followed by targeted strategies in subgroups and locations with low NNTestav. This approach could potentially improve the efficiency of identifying remaining infected persons and residual hotspots. The utility of antibodies in surveillance should also be explored.


FDA Letter to Stakeholders: Do Not Use Ivermectin Intended for Animals as Treatment for COVID-19 in Humans

Steven Solomon
U.S. Food & Drug Administration
Ivermectin tablets are approved for use in people for the treatment of some parasitic worms (intestinal strongyloidiasis and onchocerciasis) and ivermectin topical formulations are approved for human use by prescription-only for the treatment of external parasites such as headlice and skin conditions such as rosacea. Ivermectin is FDA-approved for use in animals for prevention of heartworm disease in some small animal species, and for treatment of certain internal and external parasites in various animal species. FDA is concerned about the health of consumers who may self-medicate by taking ivermectin products intended for animals, thinking they can be a substitute for ivermectin intended for humans. People should never take animal drugs, as the FDA has only evaluated their safety and effectiveness in the particular animal species for which they are labeled. These animal drugs can cause serious harm in people. People should not take any form of ivermectin unless it has been prescribed to them by a licensed health care provider and is obtained through a legitimate source.

How Satellite Data Can Help With COVID-19 And Beyond

Andrew Zolli
We can also use space to more effectively target our responses to infectious diseases. For example, onchocerciasis, or “river blindness,” is a neglected tropical disease that has infected more than 20 million people and blinded nearly a million. It is transmitted through black flies that breed along fast-flowing rivers and streams, often in remote communities. Because we can detect when rivers are flowing with real-time satellite imagery, we can see precisely when and where the risk of parasitic transmission is high, and help dispatch front line health workers where and when they are needed most. We are currently beginning a program to do just that with the END Fund/Reaching the Last Mile Fund, a major player working on eliminating these kinds of diseases.


Schistosomiasis and the Global Goals

Wei Wang and Kun Yang
New England Journal of Medicine
Deol et al. (Dec. 26 issue) report that there has been progress toward the 2020 and 2025 global goals of the World Health Organization (WHO) for control of schistosomiasis. China is affected by Schistosoma japonicum more than other countries, and its contributions to global elimination programs should not be overlooked. First, the sharp decrease in the number of schistosomiasis cases in China has contributed greatly to the decline in the global burden. Second, Chinese national programs for schistosomiasis control have proved that a praziquantel-based strategy is unlikely to interrupt transmission, and the success of our integrated strategy indicates that the global strategy for elimination of schistosomiasis should shift from mass drug administration of praziquantel to an integrated strategy combining chemotherapy, snail control, improved sanitation, provision of safe water, and health education. Third, the Chinese experience should encourage similar attempts in Africa, where products made in China have proved to be effective in controlling the transmission of S. haematobium.

Soil-Transmitted Helminthiasis

Intestinal Helminthiasis in School Age Children of Kashmir Valley and the Need for Intervention: A Systematic Review

Showkat Ahmad Wani and Sheikh Tanveer Salam
Kashmir valley is the most densely populated part of Jammu and Kashmir, India. The enormous population, along with the absence of basic amenities, favourable climatic conditions and underdeveloped public health care system favour the transmission of intestinal helminthiasis. Present paper reviews the prevalence of intestinal helminth infections in the Kashmir Valley and need for control strategies. A survey of published literature by virtue of PUBMED was done. Also many other bibliographic databases were searched to retrieve the relevant articles. After excluding duplicate studies, 11 research papers were retained for this paper. Intestinal helminth infections like those of Ascaris, Trichuris, Enterobius and Taenia saginata in Kashmir Valley remain very high. Majority of the infected are young children between the age group of 5 and 14 years. The age group, rural or urban residence, type of water source, boiled or unboiled water, type of defecation site, level of personal hygiene and maternal education were associated with helminth infection. Since the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends chemotherapy for intestinal helminth infections among schoolage children, there is no government policy for helminth control in Kashmir Valley. Present article stresses on regular school-based programs to deliver anthelmintics to all school age children so as to reduce the prevalence of helminth infections in Kashmir Valley.


Mass drug administration with azithromycin for trachoma elimination and the population structure of Streptococcus pneumoniae...

Rebecca A. Gladstone et al.
medRxIV [pre-print]
Mass drug administration (MDA) with azithromycin for trachoma elimination reduces nasopharyngeal carriage of Streptococcus pneumoniae in the short term. We evaluated S. pneumoniae carried in the nasopharynx before and after a round of azithromy cin MDA to determine whether MDA was associated with changes in pneumococcal population structure. . . Limited changes in pneumococcal population structure were observed after the third round of MDA suggesting treatment had little effect on the circulating lineages. An increase in macrolide resistance within one [Bayesian Analysis of Population Structure, or] BAPS highlights the need for antimicrobial resistance surveillance in treated villages.


COVID-19 Proves We Need More Than Strong Health Systems

Richard Reithinger
RTI International
As I’ve watched events unfold, I can’t help but be transported back to the beginning of my career in infectious disease epidemiology, when I was working on my doctorate studies in the Andean mountains of Peru. I chose to study cutaneous leishmaniasis, a parasitic zoonotic infection that is transmitted to humans by sand flies via wild and domestic mammal reservoirs. I quickly began to realize that diseases such as leishmaniasis have more than just a disease or public health dimension. Villagers from the study site I was working in would regularly go from the mountains to the Amazon forest in order to pursue economic activities. There, they would contract not only leishmaniasis, but also malaria, yellow fever, or dengue. Upon their return to the mountains, health workers wondered why they were seeing cases of a type of leishmaniasis more commonly seen in the Amazon as well as diseases such as yellow fever, given that they were not typically prevalent there. In some instances, if the vector was present, local transmission cycles would get established, creating an additional public health challenge for the local health system due to health care workers’ unfamiliarity with some of these new diseases.


The International Society for Neglected Tropical Diseases
Subscribe to the ISNTD YouTube channel here and catch up on all the ISNTD Connect meetings, as well as much more!


World Chagas Disease Day highlights ‘silent and silenced’ tropical illness

UN News
For the first time, the international community is on Tuesday celebrating World Chagas Disease Day to raise awareness of this neglected and entirely treatable tropical disease. “The only way to keep people safe from Chagas disease is to stop its transmission. It’s known as a silent disease because it can live quietly in the body until the late stages when it may cause fatal cardiac damage. But early diagnosis and treatment can make a difference”, said WHO chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in a video message for the day.

World Chagas Disease Day 2020: CDC and Partners Shine a Light on Chagas Disease

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Today, approximately 40,000 women of childbearing age living in the United States have chronic Chagas disease and most are unaware that they have an infection that can be passed to their childrenexternal icon. Around 300 babies are born with Chagas disease every year and most are undiagnosed. If these babies are not diagnosed and treated, about one-third will develop potentially fatal disease. However, combining maternal screening with infant testing and treatment could significantly reduce Chagas disease among babies born in the United States and reduce costs to society.

GZPL's COVID-19 Emergency Response Plan for 2020

Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy
After sharing and discussing individual and organizational perspectives on the current and potential future impact of the pandemic, the Leadership Team identified three new objectives for 2020: Chronicle and provide support for the urgent needs of national programs, particularly for access to [multi-drug therapy, or]MDT and follow-up care; Advocate for access to treatment and social services for persons affected; and Be prepared post-pandemic. To achieve these objectives, three new term-limited work groups have been created to mobilize the expertise and authority of the Leadership Team and key organizational experts.

AUDIO: Interview Dr Nathalie Strub-Wourgaft, Director of Neglected Tropical Diseases, DNDi

Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative
"Clinical trials are meant to bring some solutions and some responses to inform public health policies. . . If you just think of pharmacology, we already know that there are differences in how the drug distributes in the system, in different individuals. It's also different between pregnant women and children and adults, so you really have to understand for which population you're doing your research, and adjust it."


WHO, WFP and AU deliver critical supplies as COVID-19 accelerates in West and Central Africa

World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa
Just over two months since COVID-19 was first detected in Africa, the disease has now spread to nearly every country, resulting in nearly 17 000 confirmed cases and around 900 deaths across the continent. While South Africa has sub-Saharan Africa’s most severe outbreak, West and Central Africa are of growing concern: Cameroon has confirmed more than 800 cases, while Niger, Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea have reported a rapid rise in numbers during the past week. . . With several borders closed and flights cancelled, ensuring countries receive deliveries of much-needed medical equipment has become increasingly difficult. WHO has called for humanitarian corridors and this week’s ‘Solidarity Flights’ are delivering essential supplies to every country in Africa. The medical cargo contains face shields, gloves, goggles, gowns, masks, medical aprons and thermometers, as well as more than 400 ventilators.

Nigeria’s polio community health agents take on COVID-19 detection

World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa
A network of community health agents that has helped Nigeria curb polio is taking on a new task: deploying its early detection know-how to raise the alarm on suspected COVID-19 infection as the virus continues to spread. In recent weeks, COVID-19 has spilled over to regions beyond the capital cities of many African countries, calling for a decentralized approach to help prevent further propagation. The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged countries to bolster emergency responses at the subnational level.

Coronavirus: Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed and Bill Gates discuss Covid-19 spread

The National [United Arab Emirates]
Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, spoke with Bill Gates on Wednesday about the global spread of Covid-19. In a tweet, Sheikh Mohamed said the billionaire philanthropist was a friend who “devoted his life to improving public health”. "The world faces a great challenge and governments and private institutions need to co-ordinate to mobilise resources and launch global initiatives," he said.

Scientists Around the Globe Pivot Their Research to SARS-CoV-2

Diana Kwon
The Scientist
Earlier this year, Mirko Cortese, a postdoc at Heidelberg University in Germany, was busy investigating how the flaviviruses dengue and Zika create cellular environments that support their replication. But as he watched the number of COVID-19 cases climb around the world, including in his home country of Italy, his attention was increasingly diverted to the virus behind the disease: SARS-CoV-2. Cortese and his colleagues had both tools and knowledge necessarily for tackling the coronavirus—so they decided to rapidly shift the focus of their work to address the deepening global crisis. “We basically put aside [our] research projects and focused the majority of our efforts to support the diagnostic team and the clinic,” Cortese says. Now, Cortese is spending most of his days conducting cell culture studies with SARS-CoV-2 in a biosafety level-3 (BSL-3) lab—a space specially designed for studying infectious agents that can cause serious illness

Baylor, Texas Children’s Hospital developing COVID-19 vaccine

Dipali Pathak
Baylor College of Medicine
The National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children's Hospital, co-led by Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi and Dr. Peter Hotez, are drawing on years of experience developing vaccines for neglected tropical diseases and emerging infectious diseases to develop a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, the experience they gained between 2011 and 2016 developing the SARS vaccine has provided them with time-saving, parallel and rapid-switch strategies as well as critical scientific information that may help accelerate the development of a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine.

Characteristics of Health Care Personnel with COVID-19 — United States, February 12–April 9, 2020

CDC COVID-19 Response Team
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Limited information is available about COVID-19 infections among U.S. health care personnel (HCP). Of 9,282 U.S. COVID-19 cases reported among HCP, median age was 42 years, and 73% were female, reflecting these distributions among the HCP workforce. HCP patients reported contact with COVID-19 patients in health care, household, and community settings. Most HCP patients were not hospitalized; however, severe outcomes, including death, were reported among all age groups. It is critical to ensure the health and safety of HCP, both at work and in the community. Improving surveillance through routine reporting of occupation and industry not only benefits HCP, but all workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Global Health Community Addresses Various Angles Of COVID-19 Pandemic

Kaiser Family Foundation
What to do about the coming debt crisis in developing countries. . . IntraHealth International Urges Action to Protect Frontline Health Workers amid COVID-19 Pandemic. . . National Plan to Enable Comprehensive COVID-19 Case Finding and Contact Tracing in the U.S. . . U.N. working to avert dual crises as COVID-19 hits hunger hotspots. . . Coronavirus makes inequality a public health issue

VIDEO: Live Media briefing on COVID-19

Tedros Adhanom
World Health Organization
When the nations of the world met to form the United Nations in 1945, one of the first things they discussed was establishing an organization to protect and promote the health of the world’s people. They expressed that desire in the constitution of WHO, which says that the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being, without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition. That creed remains our vision today. The United States of America has been a longstanding and generous friend to WHO, and we hope it will continue to be so. We regret the decision of the President of the United States to order a halt in funding to the World Health Organization. With support from the people and government of the United States, WHO works to improve the health of many of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. WHO is not only fighting COVID-19. We’re also working to address polio, measles, malaria, Ebola, HIV, tuberculosis, malnutrition, cancer, diabetes, mental health and many other diseases and conditions. We also work with countries to strengthen health systems and improve access to life-saving health services. WHO is reviewing the impact on our work of any withdrawal of U.S. funding and will work with our partners to fill any financial gaps we face and to ensure our work continues uninterrupted. Our commitment to public health, science and to serving all the people of the world without fear or favour remains absolute.

VIDEO: COVID-19: What You Need to Know

Carlos del Rio
Facebook Live
"The new news is we have an antibody test. So there's several types of antibody tests and I think part of the problem is not all antibody tests are created equal, and I think we need to tell that to people. And the FDA is just approving a lot of them, and really we need to decide which one is the good one."

Upcoming Events 

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

One World: Together at Home
April 18, Worldwide Broadcast
International advocacy organization Global Citizen and the World Health Organization today announced the One World: Together At Home -- a globally televised and streamed special in support of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. One World: Together At Home will be broadcast live on Saturday, 18 April 2020 at 5:00 p.m. PDT/8:00 p.m. EDT/12:00 a.m. GMT airing on ABC, NBC, ViacomCBS Networks, iHeartMedia and Bell Media networks and platforms in Canada. Internationally, BBC One will run the program on Sunday 19 April 2020. Additional international broadcasters include beIN Media Group, MultiChoice Group and RTE. The virtual broadcast will show unity among all people who are affected by COVID-19 and will also celebrate and support brave healthcare workers doing life-saving work on the front lines.

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.

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.