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Poorer African Countries Rank High in Disease Elimination 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. 

Uniting to Combat NTDs

Children are gathered in a village in western Zambia to be taught the importance of washing their hands and general hygiene.


Lymphatic filariasis

Potential factors influencing lymphatic filariasis transmission in “hotspot” and “control” areas in Ghana

Sellase Pi-Bansa et al.
Infectious Diseases of Poverty
Mass drug administration (MDA) programmes for the control of lymphatic filariasis in Ghana, have been ongoing in some endemic districts for 16 years. The current study aimed to assess factors that govern the success of MDA programmes for breaking transmission of lymphatic filariasis in Ghana. The study was undertaken in two “hotspot” districts (Ahanta West and Kassena Nankana West) and two control districts (Mpohor and Bongo) in Ghana. Mosquitoes were collected and identified using morphological and molecular tools. A proportion of the cibarial armatures of each species was examined.

Preventive chemotherapy reverses covert, lymphatic associated tissue change in young people with lymphatic filariasis in Myanmar

Janet Douglass et al.
Tropical Medicine & International Health
This longitudinal comparative study investigated the effect of preventive chemotherapy (PC) on covert tissue changes associated with lymphatic filariasis (LF) among young people living in an LF‐endemic area in Myanmar. . . Results suggested that PC alone is sufficient to reverse covert lymphatic disturbance. Longer follow‐up of larger cohorts is required to confirm these improvements and whether they persist over time. These findings should prompt increased efforts to overcome low PC coverage, which misses many infected young people, particularly males, who are unaware of their infection status, unmotivated to take PC and at risk of developing lymphoedema.

Integrated seroprevalence-based assessment of Wuchereria bancrofti and Onchocerca volvulus in 2 LF evaluation units of Mali...

Housseini Dolo et al.
PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases
Mali has become increasingly interested in the evaluation of transmission of both Wuchereria bancrofti and Onchocerca volvulus as prevalences of both infections move toward their respective elimination targets. The SD Bioline Onchocerciasis/LF IgG4 Rapid Test was used in 2 evaluation units (EU) to assess its performance as an integrated surveillance tool for elimination of lymphatic filariasis (LF) and onchocerciasis. . .The SD Bioline Onchocerciasis/LF IgG4 Rapid test appears to be a good tool for integrated exposure measures of LF and onchocerciasis in co-endemic areas.


Comprehensive management of epilepsy in onchocerciasis-endemic areas: lessons learnt from community-based surveys

Joseph Nelson Siewe Fodjo et al.
Infectious Diseases of Poverty
Onchocerciasis-endemic regions are known to have a high epilepsy prevalence. Limited resources in these areas and poor access to healthcare by persons with epilepsy (PWE) result in a wide anti-epileptic treatment gap, poor seizure control and a high burden of seizure-related complications. Recent community-based surveys highlight the need for epilepsy management strategies suitable for remote onchocerciasis-endemic villages to ensure better health outcomes for PWE. In this paper, we propose a feasible approach to manage PWE in such settings.

Onchocerciasis associated epilepsy—A question of causality

Paul T. Cantey and James Sejvar
International Journal of Infectious Diseases
Recently there have been many studies reporting the detection of a high prevalence of epilepsy in areas that are hyperendemic for onchocerciasis. In many of these studies, including the manuscript by Mukendi and colleagues in this issue of International Journal of Infectious Diseases a positive association between past or current infection with onchocerciasis has been found. However, not all studies have found such an association. . . In some cases, including this current study and one of the previously published metaanalyses (Kaiser et al., 2013), the association weakens or disappears when controlling for potential confounders which suggests that confounders may explain part or all of the association. . . Nonetheless, this study is important. It has identified an area where the onchocerciasis programme is failing to convince enough of the population to take ivermectin to stop the transmission of onchocerciasis.


A Current Perspective of Schistosomiasis in Association with Colorectal Carcinogenesis

Eshtiyag Abdalla Abdalkareem and Khoo Boon Yin
The Open Infectious Diseases Journal
Literature has long been suggesting the correlation between Schistosomiasis and colorectal malignancy. There is a considerable directory supporting the etiological relation between Schistosoma japonicum infection and colorectal cancer in the Far East, however, the available data about the role of Schistosoma mansoni that can initiate the carcinogenesis of colorectal remain insignificant.

Elimination of Schistosomiasis Mekongi from Endemic Areas in Cambodia and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic

Virak Khieu et al.
Tropical Medicine and Infectious Disease
Despite the geographically fragmented environment along the Mekong River in Cambodia and Lao PDR, it should be feasible to achieve elimination of S. mekongi owing to the confinement of this parasite to extremely restricted areas. In fact, S. mekongi has the smallest distribution of any of the schistosome species. However, elimination has proved more difficult than initially thought. . . Despite strong progress in a large part of the endemic area, thanks to the [mass drug administration, or] MDA with praziquantel and the initiation of the multi-sectoral control approach, elimination remains a distant goal. What is needed for improved control are i) scaling-up of the multi-sectoral control approach; ii) application of a common database; and iii), in the longer perspective, local health services to a surveillance-and-response system.

Schistosomiasis infection in pre-school aged children in Uganda: a qualitative descriptive study to identify routes of exposure

Simon Peter Sebina Kibira et al.
BMC Infectious Diseases
Prevalence of schistosomiasis is high among children under five years in Uganda. Schistosomiasis control efforts over time have included periodic mass treatments in endemic areas for adults and school going children aged 5 years and above. This study explores behaviour practices of children age 2–4 years that increase the risk of schistosomiasis infection in this age group. . . The children in this study could have contracted schistosomiasis through the contact with infested water during activities such as bathing and playing, while their caregivers washed clothes, collected snail shells for poultry feeds, fetched water at the water bodies.

Human schistosomiasis in Benin: Countrywide evidence of Schistosoma haematobium predominance

Ablavi Onzo-Aboki et al.
Acta Tropica
A national mapping of human schistosomiasis was conducted in Benin to provide the baseline epidemiological data required to implement the national strategy for schistosomiasis control and elimination to achieve the WHO’s goal of reaching at least 75% of school-age children in endemic areas by 2020. . . Although [preventive chemotherapy, or] PCT might not be required in 32/77 districts, a yearly and bi-annual deworming is needed in 2 and 43 districts, respectively. If no environmental change occurs, and no mass treatment is delivered, prevalence is likely to remain stable for many years owing to poor hygiene and sanitation.

A Call for Systems Epidemiology to Tackle the Complexity of Schistosomiasis, Its Control, and Its Elimination

Stefanie J. Krauth et al.
Tropical Medicine and Infectious Disease
Systems epidemiology, as a holistic research approach, can integrate knowledge from classical epidemiology, with that of biology, ecology, social sciences, and other disciplines, and link this with informal, tacit knowledge from experts and affected populations. It can help to uncover wider-reaching but difficult-to-identify processes that directly or indirectly influence exposure, infection, transmission, and disease development, as well as how these interrelate and impact one another. Drawing on systems epidemiology to address persisting disease hotspots, failed intervention programmes, and systematically neglected population groups in mass drug administration programmes and research studies, can help overcome barriers in the progress towards schistosomiasis elimination. Generating a comprehensive view of the schistosomiasis system as a whole should thus be a priority research agenda towards the strategic goal of morbidity control and transmission elimination.

Soil-Transmitted Helminthiasis

Results of a national school-based deworming programme on soil-transmitted helminths infections and schistosomiasis in Kenya

Charles Mwandawiro et al.
Parasites & Vectors
In 2012, Kenya began a national school-based deworming programme (NSBDP) aimed at reducing infection and associated morbidity. The change in prevalence and intensity of these infections was monitored over five years (2012–2017). Here, we present the changes in STH and schistosome infections between baseline and endline assessments, as well as explore the yearly patterns of infection reductions.

The long run impact of early childhood deworming on numeracy and literacy: Evidence from Uganda

Kevin Croke and Rifat Atun
PLOD Neglected Tropical Diseases
In this paper, treatment and control communities which formed part of a cluster randomized deworming trial in eastern Uganda from 2000-2003 were surveyed from 2010-2015 to measure children’s basic numeracy and literacy. . . We find that mass deworming of preschool aged children in high prevalence communities in Uganda resulted in no statistically significant gains in numeracy or literacy 7-12 years after program completion. However, there is suggestive evidence that deworming is relatively more effective for girls, primary school aged children, and children living in households with other treatment-eligible children.


Sensitivity and specificity of computer vision classification of eyelid photographs for programmatic trachoma assessment

Matthew Kim et al.
Trachoma programs base treatment decisions on the community prevalence of the clinical signs of trachoma, assessed by direct examination of the conjunctiva. Automated assessment could be more standardized and more cost-effective. We tested the hypothesis that an automated algorithm could classify eyelid photographs better than chance...For assessing the clinical signs of trachoma, a convolutional neural net performed well above chance when tested against expert consensus. Further improvements in specificity may render this method suitable for field use.

Assessment of trachoma in suspected endemic areas within 16 provinces in mainland China

Jialiang Zhao et al.
PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases
China used to be among the countries with a high prevalence of trachoma. At the launch of The Global Elimination of Trachoma (GET) 2020 campaign by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1996, China was placed on the list of countries endemic for trachoma based on historical data. However, empirical observation and routinely collected eye care data were suggesting that trachoma was no longer a public health problem. To determine whether the GET 2020 goals had been met in P. R. China, we conducted a targeted assessment with national scope...This large study suggested that trachoma was not a public health problem in 16 provinces that had been previously suspected to be endemic.

Community-level chlamydial serology for assessing trachoma elimination in trachoma-endemic Niger

Jessica S. Kim et al.
PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases
Here, we evaluated the relationship between serologic markers of Ct, infection, and TF at the individual and community levels to evaluate the utility of serology for measuring trachoma in a mesoendemic region of Niger. . . Seropositivity to Pgp3 and CT694 correlates with clinical signs and ocular chlamydia infection in a mesoendemic region of Niger.

Trachoma and other neglected tropical diseases

Dr. Astrid Bonfield
The Hippocratic Post
The [Queen Elizaabeth Diamond Jubiliee] Trust’s Trachoma Initiative, which is working towards the elimination of blinding trachoma in 12 Commonwealth countries in honour of Her Majesty The Queen, has been working closely with the Government of Malawi in the battle against trachoma. The huge strides the country has made are the result of a massive collaborative endeavour: The Trust’s Trachoma Initiative is led by Malawi’s Ministry of Health and delivered by a vast network of partners, all of whom are coordinated by Sightsavers on behalf of the International Coalition for Trachoma Control. . .Because of these efforts, more communities in Malawi are now trachoma-free, allowing people the freedom to work, support their families, access education and interact with the world as they would wish to.

Detecting Trichiasis Using 3D Photography: A Case Study

Neha Jhaveri
In a study funded by UK aid from the British people, researchers developed and then evaluated a methodology using 3D images to teach and test trachoma graders-in-training. Compared to 2D photos, the approach using 3D images closely resembles actual examination.


Poorer African nations rank high in disease-fighters’ League Table

Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases
African countries with modest national incomes are outperforming some richer nations on the continent in the fight against diseases of poverty known as neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), according to a new league table ranking. The league table ranks the countries according to their performance in reaching everyone in need with the necessary treatment, across the five most common NTDs in Africa that are amenable to mass treatment. . . The table shows that three countries with modest national incomes – Malawi, Sierra Leone and Togo – have, for the third year running, reported high treatment levels to those in need across the five diseases.

Neglected tropical diseases in children: An assessment of gaps in research prioritization

Chris A. Rees, Peter J. Hotez, Michael C. Monuteaux, Michelle Niescierenko, and Florence T. Bourgeois
PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases
Understanding gaps in research activity and treatment options to reduce the global impact of neglected tropical diseases in children presents the opportunity to inform strategic initiatives and prioritize future research efforts...Despite the known burden of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) on child health, there is limited information on current efforts to increase pediatric therapeutic options. Our objective was to quantify and characterize research activity and treatment availability for NTDs in children in order to inform the prioritization of future research efforts.

Neglected tropical diseases and the sustainable development goals: an urgent call for action from the front line

Ayenew Addisu et al.
BMJ Global Health
The international community has pledged through the Sustainable Development Goals to eliminate neglected tropical diseases by 2030. Authors from 19 institutions around the world call for urgent reflection and a change in mind-set to garner support and hasten progress towards achieving this fast approaching target. They advocate for an empowering approach that will propel political momentum, milestones and targets for accountability, new science in drug development and increased funding particularly from G20 countries.

Can mathematics inform elimination efforts?

Christina Faust
BMC Blog
A group of epidemiologists set out to develop new analytical tools that don’t require lots of data to evaluate the success of [mass drug elimination or] MDA programmes. In particular, they focussed on accessing the feasibility of elimination of parasitic worms. Although the goal of MDA was originally developed to control morbidity, the success of some campaigns has shifted towards a goal of elimination. But how do we know if elimination is possible? How do we determine how long this will take?

Taking Action to End NTDs

USAID Neglected Tropical Diseases Program Newsroom
In July and September 2018 USAID’s Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) Division announced two new five-year, flagship awards that will lead the Agency’s next generation of NTD programming. These awards represent a combined $500 million investment from the American people to control or eliminate five of the most prevalent NTDs that have proven, cost-effective health interventions. These awards, formerly known as the Control and Elimination Program for Neglected Tropical Diseases (CEP-NTD), Elements One and Two, have a new name: Act to End NTDs.

Can We Defeat Neglected Tropical Diseases?

Mike Barrett
Science Trends
As the polio and Guinea worm campaigns have stagnated, the HAT campaign could even catch up, although it is easy to see the rate of decline slowing as the end game comes in sight. It has recently been shown that asymptomatic people can harbor trypanosomes in their skin, and an animal reservoir that can serve as a refuge for the parasites may exist. Notwithstanding, in all of these campaigns and others targeting different tropical diseases, successes are accruing, the primary risk now coming from reversals in the kinds of international cooperation and activity that has led to these successful attacks on diseases of the poorest people in the world. Efforts should be redoubled now to beat these terrible scourges of mankind.


Wellcome commits £10 million to DNDi to develop new generation of oral leishmaniasis drugs

Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi)
"Current treatments for leishmaniasis require patients to take toxic and poorly tolerated drugs, often over a long period of time and through painful injections," said Dr Bernard Pécoul, Executive Director DNDi. "Our R&D efforts have up until now mostly focused on bringing improvements to these existing treatments, but we are hopeful this new collaboration with Wellcome will enable us to radically overhaul the treatment landscape, by developing entirely innovative oral drugs that are safe, effective, affordable, and easy to administer."

FDA Approves Novartis Drug for Tropical Disease

Novartis’ drug is currently the only medicine for fascioliasis recommended by the WHO and is on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines, the company states. It is supplied by WHO during epidemic outbreaks and for periodic use in endemic countries. . . "Novartis has a long-standing commitment to addressing global health challenges and supporting disease elimination efforts in diseases such as leprosy, malaria and fascioliasis," said Vas Narasimhan, CEO of Novartis, in the company press release. "Today's FDA approval of Egaten is another important milestone that we believe will help further expand access to this one-day treatment, taking us a step closer toward disease elimination."

A therapeutic preconceptional vaccine against Chagas disease...

Eric Dumonteil, Claudia Herrera, and Pierre Buekens
PLOS Neglected Tropical Disease
Therapeutic vaccination has been proposed for the control of T. cruzi infection, either as a stand-alone immunotherapeutic tool or in combination with antiparasitic treatment. . . After many years of debate on the role of autoimmunity in triggering Chagas disease progression, which considerably limited the efforts at developing a vaccine, it is now well established that parasite persistence in tissues is the main driving mechanism of pathogenesis. This provides a strong rationale for vaccine development.

Mosquitoes that carry malaria may have been doing so 100 million years ago

Oregon State University
The anopheline mosquitoes that carry malaria were present 100 million years ago, new research shows, potentially shedding fresh light on the history of a disease that continues to kill more than 400,000 people annually. "Mosquitoes could have been vectoring malaria at that time, but it's still an open question," said the study's corresponding author, George Poinar Jr. of Oregon State University's College of Science. "Back then anopheline mosquitoes were probably biting birds, small mammals and reptiles since they still feed on those groups today."

We didn't see this coming

Bill and Melinda Gates
Gates Notes
Twenty-five years ago, we read an article that said hundreds of thousands of kids in poor countries were dying from diarrhea. That surprise helped crystallize our values. We believe in a world where innovation is for everyone—where no child dies from a disease it’s possible to prevent. But what we saw was a world still shaped by inequity. That discovery was one of the most important steps in our journey to philanthropy. We were surprised, then we were outraged, then we were activated. There have been good surprises, too.


Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (RSTMH)
Submission Deadline: 15 April at midnight GMT Applications focused on the thematic areas listed in RSTMH’s five-year strategy will be prioritised. These are listed below: - Neglected tropical diseases, with a particular focus on their overlap with non-communicable diseases and the Sustainable Development Goals - Malaria, with a particular focus on drug resistance - One Health and wider planetary health. The consideration of human health alongside animal health, and the environment, in the context of social, economic and political factors - Topical issues including, but not limited to, emerging diseases - Drug resistant infections

FUNDING OPPORTUNITY: Alan J. Magill Fellowship

American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH)
The Alan J. Magill Fellowship was created by the ASTMH Council in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to honor the life, example and legacy of Alan J. Magill, MD, FASTMH, a widely recognized and respected leader in the global tropical medicine community. The Magill Fellowship will provide funding of $50,000 for a period of up to two years to one recipient to support mentorship, career and/or leadership development projects for ASTMH members in the early-to-middle stage of mid-career in low/low-middle income countries focusing on leadership development in tropical medicine. Magill Fellows will work closely with a mentor (ideally an ASTMH member) who will play a prominent role in the development and execution of the Fellow’s two-year plan of activities.

Upcoming Events 

Peace Corps Week
February 24-Martch 2, 2019
Peace Corps Week commemorates President John F. Kennedy’s establishment of the agency on March 1, 1961, and celebrates all the ways that Peace Corps makes a difference at home and abroad.

Launch of the 2019 Global Health Briefing Book
February 27, 5-7PM, Washington, D.C.
The evening launch event will take the form of an interactive global health expo, where members of the global health advocacy community will share their latest work and technologies. Below you can find photos of the 2017 launch event.

Rare Disease Day
February 28, 2019 
The main objective of Rare Disease Day is to raise awareness amongst the general public and decision-makers about rare diseases and their impact on patients' lives.

World Lymphedema Day
March 6, 2019
World Lyphedema Day is an annual advocate-driven celebration. This is our opportunity to educate the world about the extent of this global "lymphedemic." This includes lymphatic diseases (LD), primary and secondary lymphedema (LE), lipedema (LI), lymphatic filariasis (LF), lymphatic malformations (LM), and the full lymphatic continuum (LC) of diseases impacted by the lymphatic system.

International Women's Day
March 8, 2019
International Women's Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

World Water Day 
March 22, 2019
Marginalized groups – women, children, refugees, indigenous peoples, disabled people and many others – are often overlooked, and sometimes face discrimination, as they try to access and manage the safe water they need. This World Water Day, 22nd March, is about tackling the water crisis by addressing the reasons why so many people are being left behind.

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.

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.

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.

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.