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Schistosomiasis Associated with Cognitive Deficits in Children, Launch of a Mosquito Emoji & 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. 

NHM Snail

These snails are major vectors for parasites that cause tropical diseases (seen here with previous disease causing, over-sized creatures we've printed).


Lymphatic filariasis

How elimination of lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem in the Kingdom of Cambodia was achieved

Virak Khieu et al.
Infectious Diseases of Poverty
Due to the success of the MDA and the development of health center capacity for patient care, along with benefits gained from socioeconomic improvements and other interventions against vector-borne diseases and NTDs, Cambodia was validated by the World Health Organization as achieving LF elimination as a public health problem in 2016.

Carter Center Initiative Striking Out Disease on Hispaniola

The Carter Center
Baseball is a big deal in San Pedro de Macoris, which bears almost mythical status as the birthplace of dozens of professional players in the United States — among them such famous names as Rico Carty, Sammy Sosa, and Robinson Cano. What’s not so big in San Pedro de Macoris anymore is lymphatic filariasis, a tropical disease that once was common in the region.


Seasonal Variations in Biting Density and Infectivity of Simulium damnosum Complex in Ezeagu and Oji-River Local Government Area

F. M. Chikezie, N. R. Uzoigwe, K. N. Opara and E. K. Ezihe
Annual Research & Review in Biology
Onchocerciasis transmission is low in the studied area, and is largely by means of the forest black flies as these were the only observed group. None of the dissected flies was found to be infective. The findings of this study will be of tremendous benefit to policy makers in the National Onchocerciasis Elimination Programme. It calls for a continuous monitoring of onchocerciasis disease conditions in the study area.


Cognitive deficits and educational loss in children with schistosome infection—A systematic review and meta-analysis

Amara E. Ezeamama et al.
PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases
This review was prospectively registered in the PROSPERO database (CRD42016040052). Medline, Biosis, and Web of Science were searched for studies published before August 2016 that evaluated associations between Schistosoma infection and cognitive or educational outcomes. . . Schistosoma infection/non-treatment was significantly associated with educational, learning, and memory deficits in [school-age children, or] SAC. Early treatment of children in Schistosoma-endemic regions could potentially mitigate these deficits.

Seventeen volunteers let this worm live inside them to help defeat a dangerous disease

Kai Kupferschmidt
[Leiden University Medical Center physician Meta] Roestenberg and her colleagues are infecting people with Schistosoma mansoni, one of five tiny waterborne worm species that cause schistosomiasis, a disease that sickens millions of people in Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America and kills thousands each year. There is no schistosomiasis vaccine and only one old, inadequate drug, praziquantel, to treat it. Infecting humans could help speed up the development of new interventions. Roestenberg has designed the experiment to prevent the parasites from reproducing, and she says the risk to volunteers is extremely low.

Texas Tech HSC signs agreement with biotechnology company to develop vaccine

Ellysa Harris
Lubbock Avalanche-Journal
The [Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, or] HSC on Thursday announced a license agreement with PAI Life Sciences, Inc. to further develop a vaccine to treat it [schistosomiasis] - the first such agreement in the university’s history. . . The SchistoShield vaccine was not created to cure schistosomiasis, [Grover E. Murray Professor Afzal] Siddiqui said. It’s intended to at least lessen the symptoms.

Alternative methods needed to detect all schistosomiasis cases

Stefan Michael Geiger
To detect detect intestinal schistosome infections, the World Health Organization recommends using the Kato-Katz technique, which analyzes slides of fecal matter. But the approach often misses people who are infected with only a low burden of parasites and, as a consequence, shed only a few eggs in fecal samples. Researchers have now analyzed the efficacy of other testing approaches in a setting with low parasite burden; their results appear in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. . . "We believe that a combination of methods has to be implemented since the schistosomiasis control programs in different regions of the world are moving from morbidity control towards transmission control and elimination."

Schistosomiasis significantly reduced with safe water supplies in rural KwaZulu-Natal: Study

Outbreak News Today
The increased supply of safe water in a rural African community has significantly reduced the chances of children contracting a parasitic disease, according to new research in eLife. The study, carried out in a community in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, demonstrated that increased provisions of safe water over a period of seven years have led to an eight-fold decrease in the risk of children becoming infected with urogenital schistosomiasis. This impact is substantially greater than previous results have suggested.

Agrochemicals increase risk of human schistosomiasis by supporting higher densities of intermediate hosts

Neal T. Halstead et al.
Nature Communications
Here, we use a field mesocosm experiment to demonstrate that environmentally relevant concentrations of agrochemicals (fertilizer, the herbicide atrazine, and the insecticide chlorpyrifos) increase the densities of schistosome-infected snails. These effects occur through both bottom-up effects by increasing the algae snails eat (fertilizer and atrazine) and top-down effects by decreasing densities of snail predators (chlorpyrifos).

Prevalence of Urinary Schistosomiasis among Primary School Children in Kwalkwalawa Area, Sokoto State, North-Western Nigeria

K. Mohammed et al.
Asian Journal of Research in Medical and Pharmaceutical Sciences
The study was conducted to determine the prevalence of urinary schistosomiasis among primary school children in Kwalkwalawa Area of Sokoto, State, Nigeria. . . Out of 200 urine samples 128(33.5%) had infection with statistically significant difference (p<0.005) in infection rates among males (35.3%) and female (32.8%). Children between ages 11-14 years had a higher prevalence of 33.7% (p<0.001) compared with children between the ages 5-10 years (33.3%).

iViz used to investigate schistosomiasis in Madagascar

Hannah Russell
We based our research on the WHO recommendations for using ultrasound to investigate schistosomiasis, which included looking at the echogenicity of the liver, periportal fibrosis and the diameter of the portal vein. However, using large cart-based instruments in remote villages accessible only on foot is just not feasible; we needed a portable ultrasound system. We contacted FUJIFILM SonoSite, explaining what we were doing and why, and the company lent us an SonoSite iViz system for the project, which was ideal as its light weight and small size made it easy to carry around in a kit bag.

Schistosoma mansoni and other intestinal parasitic infections in schoolchildren and vervet monkeys in Lake Ziway area, Ethiopia

Dejene Teklemariam, Mengistu Legesse, Abraham Degarege, Song Liang and Berhanu Erko
BMC Research Notes
The results of the study show that S. mansoni, T. trichiura, A. lumbricoides, hookworms, and Strongyloides species occur in school children and vervet monkeys in the study area. The hatching of miracidia from S. mansoni eggs in the vervet faeces and establishment of the life cycle of the parasite in the lab-bred mice may suggest that the parasite has zoonotic importance. Nevertheless, molecular studies are required for characterization of S. mansoni and other intestinal parasites in humans and monkeys for definite establishment of their zoonotic roles.

Soil-Transmitted Helminthiasis

STH by the numbers: Mixed progress on preventive chemotherapy coverage among all children at risk of STH

Children Without Worms
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends countries with ≥20% prevalence of soil-transmitted helminthiasis (STH) at baseline administer preventive chemotherapy (PC) to preschool-age (PSAC: ages 1-4) and school-age children (SAC: ages 5-14). . . In 2016, 20 (19%) countries treated only SAC and five (5%) only treated PSAC. Of these 25 countries, only 9 (36%) reached 75% PC coverage among all children.

Estimation of the number of women of reproductive age in need of preventive chemotherapy for soil-transmitted helminth infection

Denise Mupfasoni et al.
PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases
Over the last five years, the numbers of children receiving deworming have increased but coverage in [women of reproductive age, or] WRA has remained low. We compiled data on the number of WRA in STH-endemic countries and estimated the number of WRA in need of [preventive chemotherapy, or] PC. This will enable us to develop the necessary operational strategies to control STH infection in WRA.

Human and Veterinary Scientists Address Potential Drug Resistance

Children Without Worms
The University of Calgary is developing a new, more sensitive diagnostic test using genomic scanning techniques, originally developed for animal parasites, to identify specific gene mutations that enable drug resistance. Veterinary scientists at the University of Georgia are developing animal models to culture resistant worms and quality measures for the new assay. The University of Ghent has developed and is validating related laboratory protocols for global use, while the CDC will support field testing of the new diagnostics.

STH Community Earns an Overall Green Score for 3rd Consecutive Year

Children Without Worms
Despite immense challenges, tremendous progress has been made against soil-transmitted helminthiasis (STH), with STH control programs alone treating over 531 million children in 2016. For the third year in a row, the STH community earned an overall green score – the highest possible – on the Scorecard. The STH community also earned individual green scores on three out of four milestones: program support, drug requests filled, and coverage/impact.


Study links high community sanitation coverage to lower risk of trachoma

Melva Robertson
Medical Xpress
A global study of water and sanitation coverage has found that community access to sanitation facilities exceeding 80 percent reduces rates of trachoma, a blinding eye disease caused by repeated infection with Chlamydia trachomatis. The risk was lower even for people in the community without household access to sanitation.

Evaluation of a Chlamydia trachomatis-specific, commercial, real-time PCR for use with ocular swabs

Harry Pickering, Martin J. Holland, Anna R. Last, Matthew J. Burton and Sarah E. Burr
Parasites & Vectors
This study defined a simple, automated protocol for binary classification of continuous, real-time qPCR data, for use in an end-point diagnostic test. . . When used with ocular swabs, the Fast-Track Vaginal swab assay had good sensitivity for C. trachomatis detection, but lower specificity than the commercial and non-commercial assays it was evaluated against, possibly leading to false positives.

Conjunctival transcriptome profiling of Solomon Islanders with active trachoma in the absence of Chlamydia trachomatis infection

Hristina Vasileva et al.
Parasites & Vectors
Gene expression profiles in children in the Solomon Islands indicate immune responses consistent with bacterial infection when TF and C. trachomatis infection are concurrent. The transcriptomes of children with TF but without identified infection were not consistent with allergic or viral conjunctivitis.


Neglected Tropical Diseases: "Major obstacle for development"

Martin Kolmmann and Katja Dombrowski
Development and Cooperation
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) pledge to “leave nobody behind”. We all have to understand that we cannot achieve the SDGs if we don’t overcome the massive burden of NTDs. They are a major obstacle for development. The required comprehensive and inclusive approaches include prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and care (continuum of care).

WHO Donates Drugs to People Living With Tropical Diseases in Liberia

Gerald C. Koinyeneh
Front Page Africa
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday, February 20, donated a consignment of drugs to fight Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) in Liberia. During the donation ceremony at the Ministry of Health, WHO Country Director, Dr. Alex Gasasira noted that the consignment includes medication that will treat up to 2.5 million people in Liberia with Lymphatic filarias and Onchocerciasis, 300 patients with Leprosy and 100 people with Buruli ulcer.

The role of community participation for sustainable integrated neglected tropical diseases and water, sanitation and hygiene...

Shirin Madon et al.
Social Science & Medicine
We present the results of a pilot undertaken between November 2015 and April 2016 in which we adopted a mixed methods case study approach to implement an Enhanced Development Governance (EDG) model using existing village government structures. Our results show that the EDG model was associated with a statistically significant reduction in the prevalence of schistosomiasis and diarrhoea, and has led to an increase in awareness of [water, sanitation and hygiene, or] WASH interventions for sustaining gains in NTD control.

Parasitic diseases neglected: Jipmer chief

The Hindu (India)
S.C. Parija, Director of Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (Jipmer), Puducherry, on Saturday said that India was investing 0.9% of gross expenditure in research and development, far behind a number of countries and stressed the need for quality research publications.

Modern Sunni-Shia conflicts and their neglected tropical diseases

Peter J. Hotez
PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseass
We know that war, political instability, and human migrations are also important factors that promote the emergence of infectious diseases, especially vector-borne or zoonotic neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). . . According to the GBD 2015, however, overall the disease burden from infectious diseases in the [World Health Organization’s Eastern Mediterranean Region, or] EMR has declined significantly between the years 1990 and 2015. . . But when it comes to looking specifically at the NTDs in the war zones, the overall findings for the EMR’s shifting balances between [non-communicable diseases, or] NCDs and infectious diseases may mask some ominous trends in terms of the emergence or reemergence of several key diseases.

The rocky road toward disease eradication

Molly Anders and Naomi Mihara
What does it take to eradicate a disease? As the global health community faces cuts to disease eradication efforts by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, many are beginning to wonder if the victories of the past, namely the worldwide eradication of the deadly smallpox virus in 1980, will ever be replicated in the fight against some of humankind’s oldest and most pernicious global health threats.


WHO declares Kenya Guinea-worm free

Rhoda Odhiambo
The Star [Kenya]
Kenya has officially been declared free of guinea worm disease. This is after a team from World Health Organisation evaluating the status of the disease found no evidence of its transmission in the last three years. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom signed the official certificate on Tuesday in Geneva, Switzerland.

“Kala-Azar is a Dishonest Disease”: Community Perspectives on Access Barriers to Visceral Leishmaniasis (Kala-Azar) Diagnosis

Temmy Sunyoto et al.
The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
Our study participants revealed the multitude of difficulties faced when seeking care. The disease is well known in the area, yet misconceptions about causes and transmission persist. . . Despite increased efforts to tackle the disease over the years, access to quality kala-azar care in this rural Sudanese context remains problematic. The barriers explored in this study are a compelling reminder of the need to boost efforts to address these barriers.

Asians, Europeans genetically prone to severe dengue: study

The Hindu [India]
Scientists have identified gene variants that make people of Asian and European ancestry more prone to developing severe dengue. . . The study, published in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, identified two genes related to blood vessel inflammation that confer risk of severe dengue, and four genes related to metabolism that affect risk of classic dengue fever.

Disease-bearing mosquitoes gain from shrinkage of green spaces

Science Daily
A study conducted in São Paulo, Southern Hemisphere's biggest city, shows that mosquitoes belonging to vector species make up for seven out of the eight most common species found in municipal parks; adapted to urban environment, they benefit from the fragmentation of green areas, a process which leads to the extinction of wild species.

A Mosquito Emoji for Public Health Takes Flight

Stephanie Desmon
Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs
The mosquito emoji was proposed last year by the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The idea was to make it easier for people to communicate about the public health hazards of the most dangerous animal on Earth. . . A mosquito emoji will give health professionals a quick way to communicate with the public about the presence of mosquitoes, and allow researchers to promote their work around mosquito-borne diseases more easily via social media.

Upcoming Events

Effective Altruism Society and Biomedical Sciences Society Talk
February 27,  York, United Kingdom
University of York
Join us for what's sure to be a fascinating talk by an expert in his field, after a career spanning 5 decades. We'll hear about the progress being made towards eliminating neglected tropical diseases and what makes SCI such an effective charity.

March 5-9,  Las Vegas, Nevada
Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society
HIMSS18 brings you the world-class education, cutting-edge products and solutions, and unique networking opportunities you need to solve your biggest health information and technology challenges – all at one time, all in one place.

34th Annual General Meeting of the APHPN
March 5-9,  Asaba, Nigeria
Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria
Sub Themes: 1) Healthcare financing options in a fragile economy; 2) Strengthening surveillance systems and emergency preparedness for control of epidemics; 3) Achieving food security and improved nutrition; 4) Promoting community mental health in a fast changing world.

54th Annual Scientific Conference of the MSPTM
March 14-15,  Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Malaysian Society of Parasitology and Tropical Medicine
Topics covered: Malaria, Veterinary Parasitology, Vector Biology & Control, Neglected Tropical Diseases, Dengue, Emerging Zoonoses, Medical & Forensic Entomology, Medical Microbiology and Parasitology, General Topics

Improving Women’s Health: HIV, Contraception, Cervical Cancer and Schistosomiasis
March 15,  New York, NY
The New York Academy of Sciences
The symposium will focus on three key areas of intersection between HIV and broader sexual and reproductive health and rights; cervical cancer, hormonal contraception, and female genital schistosomiasis.  In all three areas, recent scientific advances raise the possibility of enhancing women’s health and wellbeing through closer collaboration and engagement between women, their health care providers and health programmers, and policy makers. Furthermore, lessons learned from AIDS activism and advocacy, in terms of demand creation and the right to health, can strengthen the broader community response.

ISNTD Festival
March 27, London, UK
The ISNTD Festival brings together the best in communication, arts, entertainment and science to help complex public health messages reach patients, the public and global health professionals worldwide.

World Vaccine Washington
April 3-5, Washington, DC
Make sure you are at the forefront of the vaccines industry. No matter where your interest lies, we have content, networking and potential partners for you. By bringing eight events together under one roof, you get to choose the sessions which are the most applicable to help your business plan for the future of vaccine research, development and manufacture.

Multilateral Initiative on Malaria 
April 15-18, Dakar, Senegal
The Multilateral Initiative on Malaria (MIM) was established in 1997 with a mission to strengthen and sustain through collaborative research and training, the capacity of malaria-endemic countries in Africa to carry out research that is required to develop and improve tools for malaria control and to strengthen the research-control interphase.

GAELF10 Meeting
June 13-15, New Delhi, India
The 10th Meeting of the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis (GAELF)

June 25-26, London, UK
ISNTD d3 will bring togther experts from within drug discovery and clinical trials to drive the debate and foster new partnerships & alliances leading to tangible outcomes in terms of new therapies to combat these diseases.

Eradicate Malaria World Congress 2018
July 1-5,  Melbourne, Australia
The inaugural World Congress on Malaria - Eradicate Malaria 2018 - will bring together the broad global community including implementers, scientists, funders, governments, policy makers and those directly affected by the disease. The aim is to bring the broad spectrum of the malaria world together for the first time, to further galvanise the effort for the eradication of malaria.

NNN 2018 
September 24-26, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
We are delighted to announce the dates for the 9th NNN annual conference, subject to venue availability.

67th Annual ASTMH Meeting 
October 28 - November 1,New Orleans, Louisiana
The ASTMH Annual Meeting draws tropical medicine and global health professionals representing academia, government, non-profits, philanthropy, NGOs, industry, military and private practice. The meeting is designed for researchers, professors, government and public health officials, military personnel, travel clinic physicians, practicing physicians in tropical medicine, students and all health care providers working in the fields of tropical medicine, hygiene and global health. 

Women Deliver 2019 Conference 
June 3-6, 2018, 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.