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Sleeping Sickness Film Wins Grand Prix in WHO Inaugural Film Festival, Diagnostic Technical Advisory Report Released & 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.

DNDi was awarded Grand Prix for its documentary, A Doctor's Dream: A Pill for Sleeping Sickness, at the inagural World Health Organization Health for All Film Festival on May 12, 2020. Click the image above to watch the documentary on YouTube.


Lymphatic filariasis

Three-drug regimen sterilizes adult filarial worms for at least 5 years

A three-drug regimen of ivermectin, diethylcarbamazine and albendazole given as a single dose sterilizes adult filarial worms for at least 5 years, according to a letter to the editor in The New England Journal of Medicine, though this regimen may fail to clear circulating filarial antigen. “We wanted to see if triple-drug therapy permanently sterilized adult worms, since their reproductive life span is about 5 years,” Christopher L. King, MD, PhD, professor in the department of pathology and associate professor in the department of medicine at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, told Healio. “This is a follow-up of a paper we published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 2018 showing the results at 3 years.”

A systematic review of alternative surveillance approaches for lymphatic filariasis in low prevalence settings. . .

Nicholas Riches, Xavier Badia-Rius, Themba Mzilahowa and Louise A. Kelly-Hope
PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases
Lymphatic filariasis (LF) is a mosquito-borne disease, which can result in complications including swelling affecting the limbs (lymphoedema) or scrotum (hydrocele). LF can be eliminated by mass drug administration (MDA) which involves whole communities taking drug treatment at regular intervals. After MDA programmes, country programmes conduct the Transmission Assessment Survey (TAS), which tests school children for LF. It is important to continue testing for LF after elimination because there can be a 10-year period between becoming infected and developing symptoms, but it is thought that the use of TAS in such settings is likely to be too expensive and also not sensitive enough to detect low-level infections. Our study assesses the results from 44 studies in areas of low LF prevalence that have investigated methods of surveillance for LF which differ from the standardised TAS approach. These include both human and mosquito studies. Results show that there is currently no standardised approach to testing, but that surveillance can be made more sensitive through the use of new diagnostic tests, such as antibody testing, and also by targeting higher risk populations. However, further research is needed to understand whether these approaches work in a range of settings and whether they are affordable on the ground.


Circulating nucleic acids for onchocerciasis detection: a diagnostic dead end?

Cara Macfarlane
Our research has demonstrated that O. volvulus nucleic acids are variably detectable at low to undetectable concentrations in host plasma. While the O-150 DNA target showed the greatest frequency, qPCR testing of plasma was well below the sensitivity of parasitological diagnosis. Despite encouraging bioinformatic predictions, all novel DNA targets were less abundant compared to O-150. Circulating parasite-derived nucleic acids are therefore insufficient as diagnostic tools or as biomarkers of treatment efficacy for onchocerciasis.

Reach Ramadan Challenge: how you can raise money for river blindness on TikTok

The National (UAE)
You can now do your bit for charity this Ramadan by creating a video on social networking platform TikTok. The video-sharing service has joined the Reach Campaign, an Emirates Red Crescent-organised drive that targets neglected tropical diseases, as its latest media partner. TikTok has pledged to donate $2 (Dh7) for every video created on the app, up to a maximum of $100,000. The Reach Campaign launched in January and uses the theme Give 2, Save 2 – meaning that a Dh2 donation is enough to provide medicine and treatment to protect one person against both diseases for an entire year. During Ramadan, however, the campaign set a goal of protecting one million people from river blindness over the course of the holy month.


An outbreak of intestinal schistosomiasis in primary school children living along the shoreline of Lake Malawi . . .

Sekeleghe Kayuni et al.
Infectious Diseases of Poverty [in review]
ntestinal schistosomiasis was not considered endemic in Lake Malawi until November 2017 when populations of Biomphalaria pfeifferi were first reported; in May 2018, emergence of intestinal schistosomiasis was confirmed subsequently. This emergence was in spite of ongoing urogenital schistosomiasis control by preventive chemotherapy. In our current investigation, we ascertain if intestinal schistosomiasis is transitioning from emergence to outbreak, to judge whether stepped-up control interventions are needed.

Nomograms to predict 2-year overall survival and advanced schistosomiasis-specific survival after discharge. . .

Guo Li et al.
Journal of Translational Medicine
The prognosis of patients with advanced schistosomiasis is poor. Pre-existing prognosis studies did not differentiate the causes of the deaths. The objectives were to evaluate the 2-year overall survival (OS) and advanced schistosomiasis-specific survival (ASS) in patients with advanced schistosomiasis after discharge through competing risk analysis and to build predictive nomograms. . . Data was extracted from a previously constructed database from Hubei province [of China]. . . The effective predictors of 2-year OS and ASS were discovered through competing risk analysis. The nomograms could be used as convenient predictive tools in clinical practice to guide follow-up and aid accurate prognostic assessment.

Soil-Transmitted Helminthiasis

Soil-transmitted helminthiasis in four districts in Bangladesh: household cluster surveys of prevalence and intervention status

Stacy L. Davlin et al.
BMC Public Health
In the three low-prevalence districts, the [Bangladesh Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, or] MOHFW is considering decreasing the frequency of mass drug administration, per World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. Also, the MOHFW will focus programmatic resources and supervisory efforts on Sirajganj District. Despite considering WHO guidance, the MOHFW will not expand PC administration to women of reproductive age partly due to the low prevalence of hookworm and T. trichiura, the STH parasites that contribute most to morbidity in that risk group. Data collected from surveys such as ours would help effectively guide future STH control efforts in Bangladesh and elsewhere.

FDA-Approved Antiparasitic Drugs in the 21st Century: A Success for Helminthiasis?

Josué de Moraes and Timothy G. Geary
Trends in Parasitology
Diseases caused by helminth infections affect more than a quarter of the population of the world, but the therapeutic arsenal is limited. The approval of moxidectin in 2018 and triclabendazole in 2019 by the FDA marked an important moment in the fight against diseases of poverty, such as helminthiases.

A Case-Control Study on the Association Between Intestinal Helminth Infections and Treatment Failure in Patients with CL

Dalila Y Martínez et al.
Open Forum Infectious Diseases
Endemic regions of cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL) and intestinal helminthiasis overlap. CL treatment with systemic pentavalent antimonial drugs (Sb5+) fails in 10%-30% of patients. The study objective was to assess the etiological role of intestinal helminthiasis in CL treatment failure. . . In the Peruvian setting, high Sb5+ treatment failure rates are not explained by intestinal helminthiasis. On the contrary, strongyloidiasis had a protective effect against treatment failure.


The Power List 2020: Caroline Harper, Chief Executive of Sightsavers, UK

The Ophthamologist
The Power List is back once again to celebrate the achievements of the most influential figures in ophthalmology – nominated by our readers and whittled down by our judges to the final 100. From ocular oncology to tackling neglected diseases, our 2020 Power Listers are making their mark on ophthalmology – and beyond. The top 10 are ranked, while the rest of the list appears alphabetically.


Report of the first meeting of the WHO Diagnostic Technical Advisory Group for Neglected Tropical Diseases

World Health Organization
In view of the need to support programmes to deliver much-needed health interventions to vulnerable populations, and in order to demonstrate and maintain the health gains achieved so far, the Department has determined, in accordance with the recommendations of the Strategic and Technical Advisory Group for Neglected Tropical Diseases, that it is necessary to reassess needs and access-related issues around diagnostics for all the diseases in its portfolio. . . A single WHO working group will ensure a unified approach to identifying and prioritizing diagnostic needs and to informing WHO strategies and guidance on the subject.

Community-based health care, including outreach and campaigns,in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic

World Health Organization
Community-based health care is an essential part of primary care at all times; in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the distinct capacity of trusted community members for social engagement and delivering care where it is needed is ever more critical. This joint WHO, UNICEF and IFRC guidance addresses the role of community-based health care in the pandemic context. It includes practical recommendations for decision makers to help keep communities and health workers safe, to sustain essential services at the community level, and to ensure an effective response to COVID-19. Using this comprehensive and coordinated approach will help countries strengthen the resilience of community-based health services throughout the pandemic, into early recovery and beyond.

Documents related to Provisional agenda (abridged) WHA73/1 Add. 1

World Health Organization
The May 2020 session of the Health Assembly will be a virtual de minimis meeting, with the intention to defer consideration of most items of the Health Assembly to written procedure or a resumed meeting later in the year. In light of this and given the ongoing resource requirements related to the COVID-19 pandemic, some documents that are not required for items to be considered at the virtual de minimis meeting in May 2020 will be published at a later date. This will only take place when the work of the Assembly would not be adversely impacted. We believe this represents a prudent use of resources and reflects the current priorities of the Organization.


Guinea Worm – the last mile

David Molyneux
Royal Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene
The [Global Guinea Worm Eradication Programme, or] GWEP has been remarkably successful in reducing the numbers of human cases to a tiny fraction of pre-programme levels, reducing significantly pain and disability whilst increasing nutritional security. This is exemplified by the Dogon word for GW- “Yoro” the disease of the “empty granary”. As we seek to not only eradicate, but make D. medinensis extinct, many more appropriate warnings also come to mind, such as “beware of the dog”, “expect surprises”, “the last mile is always the most difficult”, and “have a Plan B”. Having a Plan B could mean that we accept success if we had zero human cases for three years in a country and recognize that animal sources will always pose a minimal risk to humans, whilst investing in targeted research, and strengthening surveillance systems.

Call for expressions of interest – Neglected tropical diseases of the skin (Skin NTDs)

World Health Organization
This call is to help establish a database of disease-specific and cross-cutting experts to support the work of the WHO Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases on skin-NTDs, disability, rehabilitation, management, stigmatization and inclusion. WHO is also creating a database of high-quality photos for educational, training and advocacy purposes on clinical aspects and field work. If you agree to contribute to this database, you will be granted access to upload your photos through WHO's secured server. During submission, you will be expected to provide a caption including authorship details. You will be acknowledged whenever the photos are used.

Leprosy/Hansen Disease: Management of reactions and prevention of disabilities - technical guidance

World Health Organization
Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy
This document provides updated guidance on how to recognize and address reactions early to avoid irreversible nerve damage. By periodically assessing nerve function, nerve damage can be recognized earlier on, even before it is clinically manifest. Providing treatment early will prevent further damage and protect the patient from manifesting disabilities.

GPZL’s COVID-19 Working Groups: May 2020 Update

Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy
The COVID-19 pandemic has strongly impacted leprosy control and prevention, and in response, GPZL has established three working groups to address the leprosy community’s key challenges during the global health crisis, and spearhead emergency response. GPZL’s three COVID-19 response working groups are: Chronicling and providing support for the urgent needs of National Leprosy Programmes, particularly for access to MDT and follow-up care; Advocating for access to comprehensive healthcare, social protection services and humanitarian measures for persons affected by leprosy or Hansen’s Disease, and their families; and Preparing GPZL for the post-pandemic global health landscape.

Commemorating Smallpox Eradication – a legacy of hope, for COVID-19 and other diseases

Christian Lindmeier
World Health Organization
On 8 May 1980, the 33rd World Health Assembly officially declared: ‘The world and all its peoples have won freedom from smallpox.’ . . . To permanently commemorate the eradication of smallpox and the lessons learned on a global scale, rather than every 10-years, WHO is calling museums, exhibition companies, designers, curators and associations to develop an immersive, interactive and educational exhibition on smallpox and its relevance for COVID-19 and global health security. The exhibition, which will be unveiled later this year, will promote a better understanding of public health and empower people to keep informed and safe during a pandemic.


Code vs. COVID-19

Andrew Trister
The Optimist
The Wadhwani Institute for Artificial Intelligence is a nonprofit located in Mumbai, India. In the past, they’ve designed cutting-edge tools to help combat tuberculosis and malnutrition, including a smartphone app that can help community health workers estimate a baby’s weight without a scale. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, however, Wadhwani AI has moved on to new inventions. They’re working on a tool, for instance, called "Cough against COVID" with Stanford University. The tool could potentially determine if someone is infected from COVID-19 based just on the sound of their cough. To be clear: The cough sound is only used to indicate that further diagnostics are needed. The tool can’t diagnose COVID-19 by itself. But it could be a very useful way to figure out who needs a test.

Identification and Monitoring of International Travelers During the Initial Phase of an Outbreak of COVID-19. . .

Jennifer F. Myers et al.
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report
To reduce introductions of COVID-19 into the United States, travelers from selected countries were screened upon entry, and their contact information forwarded to states for monitoring. During February 3–March 17, 2020, California received, corrected, and transmitted information on 11,574 travelers to local health jurisdictions for follow-up. Three travelers were matched to three of the 26,182 patients with COVID-19 reported to California by April 15. Monitoring travelers was labor-intensive and limited by incomplete information, volume of travelers, and potential for asymptomatic transmission. Health departments need to weigh the resources needed for monitoring against those needed for implementing mitigation activities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Women show their worth in the Covid-19 crisis. They deserve more than applause

Roopa Dhatt
The good news is that there is a vibrant global movement of women working in health care actively organising around Covid-19, sharing evidence and resources across borders in a spirit of sisterly solidarity. Globally, women make up the vast majority of workers in health and social care. They are leading the fight against Covid-19 in hospitals, health centres, care homes, labs and in parliaments all over the world. The woman power is out there.

New WHO estimates: Up to 190 000 people could die of COVID-19 in Africa if not controlled

World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa
Eighty-three thousand to 190 000 people in Africa could die of COVID-19 and 29 million to 44 million could get infected in the first year of the pandemic if containment measures fail, a new study by the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Africa finds. The research, which is based on prediction modelling, looks at 47 countries in the WHO African Region with a total population of one billion. The new estimates are based on modifying the risk of transmission and disease severity by variables specific to each country in order to adjust for the unique nature of the region. The model predicts the observed slower rate of transmission, lower age of people with severe disease and lower mortality rates compared to what is seen in the most affected countries in the rest of the world. This is largely driven by social and environmental factors slowing the transmission, and a younger population that has benefitted from the control of communicable diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis to reduce possible vulnerabilities.

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Africa CCDC
Latest updates on the COVID-19 crisis from Africa CDC.


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

GHA COVID-19 May Webinar Series
May 8 - 29, 2020, Webinar
Join Global Health Action (GHA) each Friday at 11 AM EST during the month of May as hey bring experts, communities and partners together to listen, connect and become empowered to address the impact of COVID-19 on our families, communities and nations. for an interactive and informational COVID-19 webinar series.

World Health Assembly Open Briefing
May 14, 2020, Webinar
The Global Health Centre and UN Foundation announce the annual World Health Assembly (WHA) Open Briefing for delegates, non-state actors, and the general public. This virtual event will introduce how the 73rd Assembly, the first ever to convene online, will work this year, with an update from WHO on the COVID-19 response. A diverse panel of experts will explore key issues emerging in the global response to the pandemic, including resource mobilization and financing, human rights and gender equality, and international cooperation for innovation and access to health technologies.

The current state of snakebite care in Kenya, Uganda and Zambia: healthcare workers’ perspectives and knowledge, and health facilities’ treatment capacity
May 14, 2020, ISNTD Connect
Annually, nearly three million people are bitten by snakes worldwide, often leading to death or amputation. For many victims, rapid medical help and anti-venoms themselves remain inaccessible or expensive - snakebite is one of the world's biggest hidden health crisis. In this ISNTD Connect webinar, Gaby Ooms (Research Manager, Health Action International) and Benjamin Waldmann (Snakebite Project Manager, Health Action International) will speak about recent research outlining the current state of snakebite care in Kenya, Uganda and Zambia, focusing on healthcare workers’ perspectives and knowledge, and health facilities’ treatment capacity.

Walk the Talk: The Health for All Challenge
May 16 - 17, 2020, Webinar
The Virtual Walk the Talk will support ongoing efforts to promote ways for people to be #HealthyAtHome, encouraging  all of us to engage in activities that promote good physical and mental health, including healthy diets, hand washing, mental health awareness, and more.

73rd World Health Assembly - VIRTUAL
Opening May 18, 2020
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.

Transforming the Global Health Workforce Through Gender Balanced Leadership
May 20, 2020, Virtual Side Event to WHA
In this session we present the state of women’s leadership in the health and social sector, and perhaps most importantly how the sector can be doing better. A policy brief on leadership within the health and social sector will be presented; putting forth the tools needed to achieve gender transformative policies and promote women’s leadership in the health and social workforce. The policy brief presented will provide practical examples as well as guidance for policy makers to incorporate gender equity into health and social workforce policies. 

Grounding Health Systems in Gender Equality to Achieve Universal Health Coverage
May 21, 2020, Virtual Side Event to WHA
This webinar will highlight opportunities to continue momentum and action for gender equality in Universal Health Coverage (UHC), examine progress in building UHC systems that prioritize gender equality, and emphasize how health systems grounded in gender-responsive UHC – inclusive of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) – are stronger and more resilient for the long term.

Masked Heroines? Building Resilience Begins with a Gender-equitable Health Workforce
May 22, 2020, Virtual Side Event to WHA
The COVID-19 pandemic is exposing the deep inequities that undermine global health, especially gender inequities impacting women front line health and care workers. In the Year of the Nurse and Midwife, few health and care workers (many of whom are women) have safe and decent working conditions, appropriate protection and equal and timely pay. How many decision makers in health systems are women? Do we collect sufficient data and evidence to understand the implications of COVID-19 on female health workers? Speakers in this session will share the perspectives of female health workers during this pandemic, and review lessons learnt from previous large-scale outbreaks – how health systems lose when gender equality is ignored, what can be done better, and how we all may gain by applying a gender lens. This event is co-sponsored by the Global Health Centre, Women in Global Health, and GENDRO.

Learning and Adapting during COVID-19 Series: How Health Systems Can Respond to Disruptions
May 28, 2020, Webinar
Health systems in low- and middle-income countries face unique challenges as COVID-19 continues to spread across the globe. Is a systems-thinking response in place to sustain primary health care amid the pandemic? How can we ensure that we are retaining quality of health services given the need to reprioritize resources? Why is gathering evidence – through new and emerging research – of paramount importance for informing how health systems can adapt? Our expert panelists will discuss these important questions during RTI International’s second webinar in our “Learning and Adapting during COVID-19” series. 

6th World One Health Congress - POSTPONED
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.

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 - VIRTUAL
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 - POSTPONED
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.

6th World One Health Congress 
October 30 - November 3, 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.