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WHO Launches Course on NTDs in the Context of COVID-19, International Health Celebrates 20 Years of Achievements in LF & 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. 

 PHOTO CREDIT: IPSI/Giovanni Carbone

Lymphatic filariasis

Two Decades of Public Health Achievements in Lymphatic Filariasis (2000–2020): Reflections, Progress and Future Challenges

International Health
This special supplement edition of the journal, International Health, offers a series of articles on the achievements of the Global Programme to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis (GPELF) over the last 2 decades.

Evolution of the monitoring and evaluation strategies to support the WHO's Global Programme to Eliminate LF

Patrick J Lammie et al.
International Health
This brief review summarizes the historical evolution of the GPELF M&E strategies and highlights current research needed to achieve the elimination goal.

Setting the stage for a Global Programme to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis: the first 125 years (1875–2000)

Eric A Ottesen and John Horton
International Health
The development of the World Health Organization's Global Programme to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis (GPELF) can be interpreted through many different lenses—e.g. one focusing on the health or economic plight of affected individuals and populations, another tracking the individuals and organizations responsible for building the programme or, as in this review, one identifying each of the critical requirements and specific hurdles that need to be addressed in order to successfully construct the programme.

The role of non-governmental development organizations in the implementation of lymphatic filariasis programmes

Simon Bush, Frank O Richards, Jr, and Yaobi Zhang
International Health
The Lymphatic Filariasis (LF) Non-governmental Development Organization (NGDO) Network was established to engage in supporting both international and national LF elimination agendas. . .Three case studies will illustrate the roles identified for NGDOs in LF programmes covering development of operational research, policy and advocacy linkage between LF and malaria programmes; launching LF morbidity management projects and NGDO's ability to work and deliver LF services in areas of conflict.

Caring for patients in the global programme to eliminate lymphatic filariasis

Charles D Mackenzie and Sunny Mante
International Health
As the LF global programme moves to achieve success by 2030 it will be vital to continue to focus efforts on the care and rehabilitation of those suffering from lymphoedema and hydrocoeles, learning from the experiences of the past 20 y.

A triple-drug treatment regimen to accelerate elimination of lymphatic filariasis: From conception to delivery

Gary J Weil, Julie A Jacobson, and Jonathan D King
International Health
Clinical trials have recently shown that a single dose of a triple-drug combination comprised of ivermectin, diethylcarbamazine and albendazole (IDA) is dramatically superior to widely used two-drug combinations for clearing larval filarial parasites from the blood of infected persons. A large multicenter community study showed that IDA was well-tolerated when it was provided as MDA. IDA was rapidly advanced from clinical trial to policy and implementation; it has the potential to accelerate LF elimination in many endemic countries.

Progress towards elimination of lymphatic filariasis in the Americas region

Gilberto Fontes et al.
International Health
The Americas region is on its way to eliminating LF transmission. However, efforts should be made to improve morbidity management to prevent disability of the already affected populations.

Assessment of the usefulness of anti-Wb123 antibody for post-elimination surveillance of lymphatic filariasis

Ameyo Monique Dorkenoo et al.
Parasites & Vectors
The Wb123 ELISA was positive in 4.7% of Togolese school-age children who were almost certainly unexposed to LF. This apparent lack of specificity in the Togo context makes it difficult to establish a seroprevalence threshold that could serve to signal LF resurgence in the country, precluding the use of this test for post-validation surveillance in Togo. There remains a need to develop a useful and reliable test for post-elimination surveillance for LF in humans.

Health Authorities in Mambwe District to start the Mass Drug Administration to control Elephantiasis

Lusaka Times (Zambia)
Health authorities in Mambwe District are set to start the Mass Drug Administration as measure to treat Lymphatic Filariasis disease also known Elephantiasis.

Onchocerciasis

Improving tests for tropical worm diseases aim of $2.95 million grant

Tamara Bhandari
Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis
The next phases of these global disease elimination programs will require better tests for detecting people who are infected and infectious for others. Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have received a $2.95 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to create improved diagnostics for the two worm infections. The object in both cases is to find a marker in the blood that indicates when a person is capable of passing the infection to others.

Effect of Ivermectin Treatment on the Frequency of Seizures in Persons with Epilepsy Infected with Onchocerca volvulus

Alfred Dusabimana et al.
Pathogens
We assessed the effect of ivermectin treatment on seizure frequency in PWE with and without anti-seizure medication in three onchocerciasis endemic areas (Maridi, South Sudan; Aketi, DRC; and Mahenge, Tanzania). A negative binomial mixed model showed that ivermectin significantly reduced the seizure frequency, with a larger decrease in PWE with a high baseline seizure frequency. Mediation analysis showed that ivermectin reduced the seizure frequencies indirectly through reduction in microfilariae densities but also that ivermectin may have a direct anti-seizure effect. However, given the short half-life of ivermectin and the fact that ivermectin does not penetrate the healthy brain, such a direct anti-seizure effect is unlikely.

Onchocerciasis control in Ghana (1974–2016)

Nana-Kwadwo Biritwum et al.
Parasites & Vectors
Despite the significant reduction in the prevalence of onchocerciasis in Ghana, there are still communities with MF prevalence above 1%. As the focus of the GOCP has changed from the control of onchocerciasis to its elimination, both guidance and financial support are required to ensure that the latter goal is met.

Schistosomiasis

A multi-dimensional, time-lapse, high content screening platform applied to schistosomiasis drug discovery

Steven Chen et al.
Nature Communications
To facilitate drug discovery for this complex flatworm, we developed an automated high-content screen to quantify the multidimensional responses of Schistosoma mansoni post-infective larvae (somules) to chemical insult. We describe an integrated platform to process worms at scale, collect time-lapsed, bright-field images, segment highly variable and touching worms, and then store, visualize, and query dynamic phenotypes. To demonstrate the methodology, we treated somules with seven drugs that generated diverse responses and evaluated 45 static and kinetic response descriptors relative to concentration and time.

Single-cell atlas of the first intra-mammalian developmental stage of the human parasite Schistosoma mansoni

Carmen Lidia Diaz Soria et al.
Nature Communications
Taken together, this study provides a comprehensive cell-type atlas for the early intra-mammalian stage of this devastating metazoan parasite.

The impact of mass drug administration on Schistosoma haematobium infection: what is required to achieve morbidity control . . .

Klodeta Kura
BugBitten
Using an individual based stochastic model and data from two different age-intensity profiles of infection prevalence and intensity, we explore the effect of mass drug treatment (MDA) on S. haematobium and examine whether we can achieve the WHO goals of morbidity control and elimination as a public health problem by using the current guidelines.

New Drug Screening Approach for Parasitic infection Associated with Poverty

UC San Diego Health Sciences
In a study published December 21, 2020 in Communications Biology, Caffrey and team developed a new method to identify potential drugs that may be effective against the schistosome parasite.

A systematic review and meta-analysis quantifying schistosomiasis infection burden in pre-school aged children (PreSAC) in ...

Chester Kalinda, Tafadzwa Mindu, and Moses John Chimbari
PLOS One
Schistosomiasis infection among pre-school aged children 6 years old and below is high. This indicates the importance of including this age group in treatment programmes to reduce infection prevalence and long-term morbidities associated with prolonged schistosome infection.

Knowledge and perceptions of schistosomiasis. . . in . . .South Africa (Ndumo) and Zimbabwe (Ntalale)

Alexio Mbereko, Moses John Chimbari, Tawanda Manyangadze, and Samson Mukaratirwa
Food and Waterborne Parasitology
Highlights: Community awareness level of schistosomiasis as a water-borne disease was good; Knowledge levels of the cause and risk factors of schistosomiasis was relatively low; Communities from the two study localities were aware of the symptoms of Schistosoma haematobium and not the mode of transmission; Knowledge on S. mansoni was poor in both areas; In Ndumo, the understanding of schistosomiasis had changed over time

Inactivation of Schistosoma Using Low-Temperature Plasma

Silvie Hejzlarová et al.
Microorganisms
The inactivation of Schistosoma mansoni cercariae and miracidia was achieved by exposure to plasma produced by the positive, negative, and axial negative corona discharges. The positive discharge appeared as the most effective, causing the death of cercariae and miracidia within 2–3 min of exposure. The negative discharge was less effective, and the axial discharge was ineffective.

Soil-Transmitted Helminthiasis

Prevalence, Intensity, and Correlates of Soil-Transmitted Helminth Infections among School Children after a Decade . . .

Joseph Kabatende et al.
Pathogens
We conducted a cross-sectional study to investigate the prevalence, intensity, and correlates of STH after a decade of PC in Rwanda. . . . Despite a decade of PC implementation, STH remain a significant public health problem in Rwanda.

Intestinal parasitic infections in a population of BaAka Pygmies inhabiting the Congo Basin in the Central African Republic

Krzysztof Korzeniewski, Alina Augustynowicz, Emilia Bylicka-Szczepanowska, and Dagmara Pokorna-Kałwak
Annuals of Agriculture and Environmental Medicine
Microscopic examination revealed infections with 14 different species of intestinal nematodes, cestodes, trematodes and protozoa. According to the study findings, 90.5% of BaAka Pygmies were found to be infected with intestinal parasites, and 70.8% had mixed infections.

Trachoma

Prophylaxis and treatment of diseases in western São Paulo state: the Sanitation Service and trachoma . . .

Soraya Lodola and Cristina de Campos
Scielo
In 1906, Emílio Ribas reorganized the Sanitation Service and centralized São Paulo state public health services in the state capital. A campaign to combat trachoma, an ophthalmic disease, was implemented as part of this project. . . . We conclude that Ribas, by creating an organization that integrated the efforts of the sanitary districts and the Trachoma Commission medical teams, sought to form a complex apparatus to combat the diseases present in both urban areas and the countryside.

Azithromycin Reduction to Reach Elimination of Trachoma (ARRET): study protocol for a cluster randomized trial . . .

Abdou Amza et al.
BMC Ophthalmology
The results of this trial are anticipated to provide potentially guideline-changing evidence for when mass azithromycin distributions can be stopped in low TF prevalence areas.

Cross-cutting

Ethical dimensions of neglected tropical disease programming

David G Addiss, Yvonne Kienast, and James V Lavery
Transactions of The Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
The global movement to control and eliminate neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) is grounded in an ethic of social justice, solidarity and health equity. NTD programmes deliver significant health benefits in socially complex environments characterized by poverty and economic disparity. We used two ethics frameworks—principlism and Upshur's public health framework—to examine ethical challenges faced by NTD programmes. They include management of serious adverse reactions associated with preventive chemotherapy, centralization of decision-making, ‘opt-out’ policies for school-based deworming, incomplete evidence for ‘pro-poor’ impact and persistent inequities in global partnerships.

Traditional Ghanaian medicines show promise against tropical diseases

Science Daily
The discovery of new drugs is vital to achieving the eradication of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in Africa and around the world. Now, researchers have identified traditional Ghanaian medicines which work in the lab against schistosomiasis, onchocerciasis and lymphatic filariasis, three diseases endemic to Ghana.

Time for a diagnostic sea-change: Rethinking neglected tropical disease diagnostics to achieve elimination

Katie Gass
PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases
Making these 4 important changes in the way that NTD diagnostics are designed and employed will result in tests that are better suited for making public health decisions in the context of NTD elimination.

Ninth meeting of the working group on monitoring of neglected tropical diseases drug efficacy

World Health Organization
The Working Group on Monitoring of Neglected Tropical Diseases Drug Efficacy has developed a protocol to guide assessments of drug efficacy against both schistosomiasis (with praziquantel) and soil-transmitted helminthiases (with albendazole and mebendazole).

One Health and Neglected Tropical Diseases—Multisectoral Solutions to Endemic Challenges

Jennifer K. Peterson, Jared Bakuza and Claire J. Standley
Tropical Medicine and Infectious Disease
One Health is defined as an approach to achieve better health outcomes for humans, animals, and the environment through collaborative and interdisciplinary efforts. Increasingly, the One Health framework is being applied to the management, control, and even elimination of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).

World NTD Day Storytelling Competition

Youth Combating NTDs
Entries can be personal stories; explaining to someone who has never heard about these diseases what neglected tropical diseases are, why people should care about neglected tropical diseases; why you believe that countries and the global community need to take action to end neglected tropical diseases. The idea is to be compelling and to inspire action! All entries should be framed as a global rallying cry to beat NTDs! The competition is open to individuals or teams worldwide, all aged between 15 and 30 years old (inclusive) as of January 1, 2021.

Other

PMI: A Celebration of 15 Years

Ken Staley and Tim Ziemer
American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
ASTMH hosted a celebration of the President’s Malaria Initiative on November 19, 2020, with a virtual fireside chat.

Xenodiagnosis to evaluate the infectiousness of humans to sandflies in an area endemic for visceral leishmaniasis in Bihar

Om Prakash Singh et al.
The Lancet Microbe
These findings confirm that patients with active visceral leishmaniasis and patients with post-kala-azar dermal leishmaniasis can transmit L donovani to the sandfly vector and suggest that early diagnosis and treatment could effectively remove these individuals as infection reservoirs. An important role for asymptomatic individuals in the maintenance of the transmission cycle is not supported by these data.

Special Issue: Podoconiosis - Cross-Disciplinary Research Updates in the Year of NTDs

Transactions of The Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
A special issue of the Transactions of The Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene with articles focusing on Podoconiosis.

Remembering Adetokunbo O. Lucas

John Reeder
TDR
It was with great sadness that I learned that former TDR Director Professor Adetokunbo Lucas had passed away on 25 December. He was 89 years old. Professor Lucas served as Director of TDR from 1976 to 1986 and was responsible for laying much of the foundation for what TDR is today. At a time when treatments for neglected tropical diseases were severely lacking, he was at the forefront of efforts to improve the health of the most vulnerable populations. Most notably, he established successful partnerships between TDR and pharmaceutical companies to develop life-saving treatments at low or no cost for malaria, leprosy and river blindness. Accompanying this work were groundbreaking efforts to strengthen research capacity through the training of hundreds of scientists fighting these diseases in their countries. For more on his outstanding career, I urge you to read this interview, where he reflects on his motivations to dedicate his life to public health and research.

Julius Schachter, Leading Expert on Chlamydia, Dies at 84

Katie Hafner
The New York Times
His most significant work involved the chlamydia-related disease trachoma, an eye infection that until 1990 was one of the world’s leading infectious causes of blindness. He established the effectiveness of treating it with the mass distribution of the oral antibiotic azithromycin (until then, the disease was treated topically), said Dr. Thomas M. Lietman, the director of the Francis I. Proctor Foundation for Research in Ophthalmology at U.C.S.F. and a longtime colleague of Dr. Schachter’s.

COVID-19

COVID-19 epidemic in the US—A gateway to screen for tuberculosis, HIV, viral hepatitides, Chagas disease, and other . . .

Jonathan Schultz et al.
PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases
As healthcare professionals currently treating and managing patients with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), we have realized (1) the disproportionate burden of disease among disadvantaged minority groups including Hispanics; and propose (2) a unique opportunity to link into care and screen patients for other infectious diseases of poverty including HIV, TB, and NTDs. This opportunity poses challenges for the US healthcare system, and we should perform cost-effective analyses and elaborate strategies to continue screening and linking people regardless of the current pandemic.

Neglected tropical diseases activities in Africa in the COVID-19 era: the need for a “hybrid” approach in COVID-endemic times

David Molyneux et al.
Infectious Diseases of Poverty
With the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic showing no signs of abating, resuming neglected tropical disease (NTD) activities, particularly mass drug administration (MDA), is vital. Failure to resume activities will not only enhance the risk of NTD transmission, but will fail to leverage behaviour change messaging on the importance of hand and face washing and improved sanitation—a common strategy for several NTDs that also reduces the risk of COVID-19 spread. This so-called “hybrid approach” will demonstrate best practices for mitigating the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) by incorporating physical distancing, use of masks, and frequent hand-washing in the delivery of medicines to endemic communities and support action against the transmission of the virus through water, sanitation and hygiene interventions promoted by NTD programmes.

The Impact of African scientists: How years of building scientific capacity in Africa have been a real game changer . . .

Himdat Bayusuf et al.
World Bank Blogs
Shortly after the patient was identified, a sample of the virus was sent to a small town called Ede, located in Osun State, southwestern Nigeria, over 200 kilometers away from Lagos. There, a team led by Professor Christian Happi, analyzed the sample and was able within 48 hours to share the very first genome sequence of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) from Africa with the global science community— faster than what was being done in some developed countries and, more importantly, much faster than sending it to a laboratory overseas. Why is this groundbreaking? Less than a decade ago, most – if not all – of the country’s virus sequencing was conducted in laboratories abroad. By the time the results came out, the virus would have had time to spread, mutate, and patients could die.

Neglected tropical disease control in a world with COVID-19: an opportunity and a necessity for innovation

Simon J Brooker, Kundai Ziumbe, Nebiyu Negussu, Siobhan Crowley, and Mona Hammami
Transactions of The Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
Countries have seen substantial disruptions to usual health services related to coronavirus disease 2019 and these are likely to have immediate and long-term indirect effects on many disease control programmes, including neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). The pandemic has highlighted the usefulness of mathematical modelling to understand the impacts of these disruptions and future control measures on progress towards 2030 NTD goals. The pandemic also provides an opportunity, and a practical necessity, to transform NTD programmes through innovation.

Africa: Why Is the Fight Against Neglected Tropical Diseases Vital to the Fight Against Covid-19?

All Africa
Whilst the world continues to battle COVID-19, it is critical that we do not allow the pandemic to reverse years of hard fought progress against NTDs. So far in 2020, NTDs have caused far more diseases, disability and mortality in Africa than COVID.

Modelling the impact of COVID-19-related control programme interruptions on progress towards the WHO 2030 target for STH

Veronica Malizia et al.
Transactions of The Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
Both models show that without a mitigation strategy, control programmes will catch up by 2030, assuming that coverage is maintained. The catch-up time can be up to 4.5 y after the start of the interruption. Mitigation strategies may reduce this time by up to 2 y and increase the probability of achieving the 2030 target.

UPCOMING EVENTS

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

FREE ONLINE COURSE: Improving the Health of Women, Children and Adolescents: from Evidence to Action.
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine 

FREE ONLINE COURSE: Neglected tropical diseases in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic: impact and guidance
World Health Organization

Women in Global Health USA Launch Event 
January 13, 2021
Georgia Bio

Formal launch of "Ending the neglect to attain the Sustainable Development Goals: a road map for neglected tropical diseases 2021-2030" 
January 28, 2021
World Health Organization

World NTD Day 
January 30, 2021

Power of Partnership: Defeating Onchocerciasis 
February 1, 2021 Webinar
The Task Force for Global Health

Noma-a disease that shouldn't exist anymore 
February 11, 2021 Webinar
International Society for Neglected Tropical Diseases

Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting 2021 
June 20-26, 2021
The Commonwealth

The leadership needed to stimulate the battle against NTDs
TBD Webinar
Webinar of the World Health Organization