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Modelling Study Supports Slash and Clear for River Blindness, New Funds Available for FGS Research & 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.  

For millions of women living on the African continent, two of the greatest health concerns – schistosomiasis and HIV – overlap.


Lymphatic filariasis

UP starts campaign against filariasis in 19 districts

The Pioneer (India)
Uttar Pradesh became the first state in the country for starting a campaign to eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis through Mass Drug Administration (MDA) in 19 districts of the state from Monday. Health Minister Jai Pratap Singh said that the government was committed to eliminating the disease which could be cured by large-scale vaccination. "We did it with encephalitis and now we have started a campaign to eliminate filariasis,” he said. Singh said that the campaign would be taken up in 19 districts in two phases. In 11 districts, a combination of three drugs would be administered, while in the remaining eight districts, a combination of two drugs would be given.


Study: Transmission of river blindness may be reduced when vegetation is removed

Deanna Csomo McCool
Notre Dame News
Removing vegetation trailing in fast-flowing water bodies and throwing it onto riverbanks kills the black fly larvae, according to the study’s findings. This form of vector control, called “slash and clear,” was tried briefly during the 1960s and found effective, but wasn’t continued. The study, published in Nature’s Scientific Reports, includes modeling after a one-year field trial where researchers lived in villages in Uganda and worked with residents to test the process and earn their buy-in. “All you need are machetes, and the activity is well-accepted by the community,” said Michael, who is affiliated with the Eck Institute for Global Health. “And there’s no cost involved.”


The Importance of a Research Agenda for Female Genital Schistosomiasis

Chelsea Toledo
For millions of women living on the African continent, two of the greatest health concerns – schistosomiasis and HIV – overlap. In fact, research has suggested that female genital schistosomiasis (FGS) infection can increase a woman’s likelihood of becoming infected with HIV, as well as the speed with which the virus progresses to a deadly disease state. . . Now, with UK aid funding from the Department for International Development (DFID), the Neglected Tropical Diseases Support Center (NTD-SC) at The Task Force for Global Health is currently soliciting proposals for operational research to answer these questions. Our hope is to generate new understanding about how communities and health systems can address this disease to improve health outcomes and decrease the stigma faced by the 56 million women and girls affected. Ultimately, supported research will mitigate the profound inequity that results from this disease.

Lagos begins mass vaccination against schistosomiasis

Gbenga Akinfenwa, Sunday Aikulola and Gbenga Salau
The Guardian (Nigeria)
Lagos State Government will today begin mass administration of medicines for the control of schistosomiasis ravaging seven councils of the state. The Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, who disclosed this at the weekend, listed Ikeja, Ifako-Ijaiye, Amuwo-Odofin, Oshodi-Isolo, Agege, Lagos Mainland and Alimosho as the affected councils. . . the administration of medicines for control of the disease during the week-long campaign would be carried out by the state government in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health, World Health Organisation (WHO) and Mission to Save the Helpless (MITOSATH).

Soil-Transmitted Helminthiasis

Achieving and sustaining elimination: How the Geshiyaro Project might shape the future of schistosomiasis and STH programs

Alison Ower and Justine Marshall
In the Wolaita zone in southern Ethiopia a research initiative is underway to assess strategies to achieve transmission break for schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminths (STH). The Geshiyaro Project is a unique collaboration working at scale over six years to test solutions to tackle these pervasive parasites. . . Recent mathematical modelling by researchers at the LCNTDR suggests that transmission of STH and schistosomiasis can be broken in certain areas using comprehensive cross-sectoral and inter-disciplinary approaches. Enter the Geshiyaro Project. This initiative will research optimal programming and assess three different strategies for delivering drugs and WASH interventions for schistosomiasis and STH control.

One Health approach is a two-for-one stop for health care in Tanzania

Josh Babcock
Medical Xpress
The researchers treated roundworm infections in humans during their regular dog vaccinations campaign to eliminate rabies in 24 Tanzanian villages. Their findings indicate the utility of integrating the treatment of humans and animals together, a concept known as One Health. "We found there was no difference between the proportion of households that participated in the combined and stand-alone events," said Felix Lankester, clinical assistant professor and lead researcher on the project. "Suggesting that people we're not put off from attending a combined intervention where their children received treatment alongside their animals."


Health: Fighting Diseases in Ethiopia and the Philippines

Amalda and her father are two of 22 million people worldwide suffereing from the infectious disease. Amhara province is the most affected region in the most affected country in the world [Ethiopia]. Manteboshi Kibkab and a team of health workers are on a mission to help reduce rates of infection and to save the sight of those already infected. She uses every opportunity to convince villagers that they can overcome trachoma.


Modelling study widens viewpoints for new roadmap for neglected tropical diseases

World Health Organization
Findings from recent modelling of 12 neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) have provided credible insight into the feasibility of their control, elimination and eradication. These diseases of poverty continue to affect more than one billion people. The study, by the NTD Modelling Consortium, analysed transmission dynamics and challenges, providing potential evidence and information to inform strategies against NTDs. The study is opportune as WHO prepares its new roadmap for 2021–2030. While progress has been achieved since the first roadmap was published in 2012, most of the targets for 2020 will not be met.

The Gender Dimensions of Neglected Tropical Diseases

The Access and Delivery Partnership
Gender, sex and their intersections with other social determinants of health shape peoples’ vulnerability to and experience of NTDs, as well as their ability to access care and treatment. Understanding similarities and differences in how people of all genders and sexes, including women and girls, are vulnerable to and experience NTDs can support governments, international and national partners and researchers to accelerate responses to NTDs and deliver equitable prevention, diagnosis and treatment services. Rapidly changing environmental and political contexts due to conflict, climate change, urbanization and migration affect levels of infection for people of different genders. These contexts can also impact health care-seeking behaviour and delivery of prevention and treatment programmes.

Working Outside Our Comfort Zone: Fighting NTDs in Conflict Areas

Scott McPherson
RTI International
At a policy level, the NTD-fighting community — from the World Health Organization, to ministries of health, pharmaceutical companies, donors, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and other key actors — must continue to have disciplined and difficult conversations to answer big questions on conflict and NTDs, and to develop guidelines accordingly. In recent years, these conversations have been met with eagerness and strategic mindsets from all sides — a trend that must continue.

ABU, Nagasaki varsity sign MoU on tropical diseases, radiation medicine

Misbahu Bashir
Daily Trust (Nigeria)
Ahmadu Bello University and Japan’s Nagasaki University have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to strengthen research in tropical diseases and radiation medicine under the Africa Center of Excellence for Neglected Tropical Diseases and Forensic Biotechnology domiciled in Ahmadu Bello University. Speaking at the ceremony, which took place at the National Universities Commission (NUC) in Abuja yesterday, the commission’s Executive Secretary Prof. Abubakar Adamu Rasheed, said the MoU framework brought hope to Nigeria’s academic space since tropical diseases and radiation science were the best areas of medicine nowadays.

World Bank Increases Support for Higher Education and Economic Transformation

Freedom Newspaper
The Second Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence for Development Impact project (Second ACE Impact) will help establish 14 new ACEs and strengthen the activities of 9 well-performing existing ones to further improve postgraduate education (PhD, masters and professional short courses) and applied collaborative research that are essential to provide Africa with the skills needed to address regional development challenges. The specific sectors supported include sustainable power and energy, sustainable cities in Africa, neglected tropical diseases, maternal health, transport, mining and environment, applied informatics and communication, crop science, dryland agriculture, water and sanitation.

This Week in Congress

The House will convene Tuesday for votes on eight foreign policy-related bills; including legislation to sanction Chinese officials involved in the persecution of Uighur Muslim minorities, fight neglected tropical diseases, ensure children of military & civil service personnel born or adopted from abroad receive U.S. citizenship, and call for the continued exclusion of Russia from the Group of Seven (G7). . . H.R. 3460: End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act

VIDEO: Rep. Chris Smith House Passage of HR 3460- the End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act

U.S. Rep Chris Smith
Rep. Chris Smith House Passage of HR 3460- the End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act

VIDEO: WHO's World Report on Vision

The World Health Organization’s first World Report on Vision provides the best available evidence on the global magnitude of eye conditions and vision impairment, takes stock of progress made and the remaining challenges facing the eye care sector, and outlines future priorities for action.


Across several continents, infecting mosquitoes with bacteria results in dramatic drops in dengue illness, trials show

Helen Branswell
The number of people infected by dengue and at least one related virus has plunged in places where mosquitoes bred to be infected with a bacterium called Wolbachia have been released and have established themselves, scientists reported Thursday. The results, from Australia, Indonesia, and Brazil, are dramatic, with a 76% drop in dengue infections in the part of Indonesia where the mosquitoes were released. In Brazil, treated neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro saw rates of dengue infections fall by 70%. Infections with chikungunya, which is spread by the same mosquitoes, were 75% lower there — in a year when the disease was at epidemic levels elsewhere in the area.

Kala-azar killed 34 people in Northeastern this year

Magdaline Saya
The Star (Kenya)
Four counties Marsabit, Wajir, Garissa and Mandera have reported 2,788 kala-azar cases, the Health ministry has said. The Disease Surveillance and Epidemic Response Unit said Marsabit had the highest number of deaths at 19 since January, out of the 657 cases reported. The disease, also known as visceral leshmaniasis, is caused by a protozoan parasite. It's spread by the bite of a female sand fly that lives in anti hills and mud houses. Nine died in Wajir out of 470 cases reported, while Garissa and Mandera recorded three and one deaths, respectively.

Donors pledge $2.6 billion for 'last mile' of polio eradication

Kate Kelland and Pravin Char
Donor governments and philanthropists pledged $2.6 billion on Tuesday to help fund a worldwide polio eradication plan that has taken decades to reach what global health specialists say is now the “last mile”. The funding - almost of half of which came in a single donation from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation - will be used to immunize 450 million children against polio each year, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement.

We won't meet the 2020 AIDS targets. Now what?

Mitchell Warren
It is time — in fact, well past time — to redouble efforts and investments in HIV prevention. The need is clear. In sub-Saharan Africa, adolescent girls and young women are 5 to 14 times more likely to be infected with HIV than their male peers. PEPFAR’s DREAMS partnership that focuses on adolescent girls and young women in specific regions of priority countries is using multilayered biomedical, behavioral, and structural interventions to address the many factors that make girls and young women particularly vulnerable to HIV. But this is just the beginning.

A world of giving

Caroline Lambert
The Optimist
What if generosity was the value that fueled our world? This was the radical idea that propelled Henry Timms and Asha Curran to launch the GivingTuesday movement back in 2012. The idea, explains Asha Curran, was to launch a campaign that would encourage generosity and giving—whether money, time or one’s voice—and “make good go viral.” Eight years later, GivingTuesday has spread like wildfire throughout the globe and has an organized presence in over 60 countries. People participate in GivingTuesday in every single country in the world.

Forget the Scarf. These Gifts Change Lives.

Nicholas Kristof
The New York Times
FIGHT WORMS AND BLINDNESS. If cervical cancer is a horrific and easily preventable disease for women, a counterpart that strikes men is a parasite-caused disease called elephantiasis. It swells up the scrotum to such huge proportions that men must use wheelbarrows to carry their private parts. It also causes monstrous swelling of the feet of men and women alike so that they look like elephant legs, hence its name. This disease survives only because the people who suffer these horrors are impoverished. The End Fund is working mightily to eradicate elephantiasis and other “neglected tropical diseases,” including river blindness and trachoma, both excruciatingly painful causes of blindness. They, too, have cheap and simple solutions.

Upcoming Events 

Epidemics7: International Conference on Infectious Disease Dynamics
December 3-6, 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. 

International Conference on NTDs in Africa (IncoNTD)
December 4-6, Nairobi, Kenya
The 1st  International Conference on NTDs (IncoNTD) in Africa seeks to bring together national and international stakeholders involved in the control and elimination of NTDs. IncoNTD is jointly organized by the African Research Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases (ARNTD), the Kenya Ministry of Health (MoH), and the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), and will be held at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Nairobi, Kenya from December 4 – 6, 2019. 

Global Health Landscape Symposium 2019
December 6, Washington, DC
This year's symposium will explore a number of themes and considerations that get to the heart of what it will mean – for all actors – to #DemocratizeGlobalHealth. To achieve health for all people, national health programs must be driven by country strategies, local leadership, and domestic resources rather than external donors or partners. 

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

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

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

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

73rd World Health Assembly
May 17-20, 2020, Geneva, Switzerland
The World Health Assembly is the decision-making body of WHO. It is attended by delegations from all WHO Member States and focuses on a specific health agenda prepared by the Executive Board. The main functions of the World Health Assembly are to determine the policies of the Organization, appoint the Director-General, supervise financial policies, and review and approve the proposed programme budget. The Health Assembly is held annually in Geneva, Switzerland.

CHOGM 2020
June 2020, Kigali, Rwanda
The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) is a pivotal agenda-setting and decision-making space for the diverse community of 53 Commonwealth countries. With varying economic statuses and vast oceans between them, our leaders meet every two years to explore how they can pool their resources and innovations to transform joint challenges into exciting opportunities. In June 2020, Rwanda will host the meeting. Connected by similar traditions, language, governance and legal structures, presidents, prime ministers and monarchs, from Africa, the Caribbean and Americas, Europe, Asia and the Pacific, will travel to Kigali to reaffirm their common values and agree actions and policies to improve the lives of all their citizens.

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.