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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.

University of Melbourne

Good hygiene practices are more important than ever with the COVID-19 outbreak, but soap isn’t provided as standard in all schools.


Lymphatic filariasis

The safety of combined triple drug therapy with ivermectin, diethylcarbamazine and albendazole. . .

Myra Hardy et al.
PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases
Lymphatic filariasis is a parasitic infection that is spread between humans by mosquitos. The adult worms can live up to 6 years in humans causing chronic irreversible damage to lymphatic vessels resulting in permanent limb swelling known as elephantiasis. The filariasis worm is susceptible to three different drugs: ivermectin, diethylcarbamazine and albendazole. They have been used in two drug combinations globally in communities at risk of filariasis infection, including Fiji, for over a decade. In an attempt to improve efficacy of the treatment with the ultimate goal of eliminating the infection, the three drugs are now being used in the one administration. In this study, the safety of the triple combination in Fiji was proven to be as safe as the standard two drug treatment. Two other common infections that will be affected by the new treatment, scabies and intestinal worms, did not impact on the frequency of adverse events. The use of the triple combination in Fiji has the potential to improve the control of common neglected diseases without excess side effects.

Demographic, socioeconomic and disease knowledge factors, but not population mobility, associated with lymphatic filariasis. . .

Patricia M. Graves, Sarah Sheridan, Saipale Fuimaono and Colleen L. Lau
Parasites & Vectors
Prevalence of lymphatic filariasis (LF) antigen in American Samoa was 16.5% in 1999. Seven rounds of mass drug administration (MDA) programmes between 2000 and 2006 reduced antigen prevalence to 2.3%. The most efficient methods of surveillance after MDA are not clear, but testing specific at-risk groups such as adults may provide earlier warning of resurgence. The role of migration from LF endemic countries in maintaining transmission also needs investigation. Few studies have investigated knowledge about LF and how that relates to infection risk. This study aims to investigate associations between socio-demographics, population mobility, disease knowledge and LF infection risk.

Factors Influencing the Sustainability of Neglected Tropical Disease Elimination Programs. . .

Irene Wangeci Thuo et al.
The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
Elimination of a disease is the holy grail in global health. The pathology of several neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) such as lymphatic filariasis (LF) makes elimination a reality. However, successful elimination requires that NTD programs be sustainable—the ability to confirm that the disease has been eliminated and the capacity to ensure that it does not return. The WHO’s guidelines on NTDs thoroughly detail how to reach elimination. Notwithstanding, comprehensive guidance regarding contextual and programmatic factors that influence sustainability is lacking. . . This research aimed to develop a framework that identified the critical programmatic and contextual factors influencing sustainability of NTD elimination programs.

Novel anti-Wolbachia drugs, a new approach in the treatment and prevention of veterinary filariasis?

Joseph D.Turner et al.
Veterinary Parasitology
We present the current portfolio of next-generation anti-Wolbachia candidates discovered through phenotypic screening of chemical libraries and validated in a range of in vitro and in vivo filarial infection models. Several novel chemotypes have been identified with selected narrow-spectrum anti-Wolbachia specificity and superior time-to-kill kinetics compared with doxycycline. We discuss the opportunities of developing these novel anti-Wolbachia agents as either cures, adjunct therapies or new preventatives for the treatment of veterinary filariasis.

Anti-elephantiasis programme under way in 15 districts

Eleven Media Group (Myanmar)
For the elimination of elephantiasis (lymphatic filariasis), Ministry of Health and Sports plans to implement anti-elephantiasis programme in 15 districts in seven regions and states where the prevalence of elephantiasis infection are reported. The coverage areas are: Dekkhina Thiri and Ottaya Thiri Districts in Nay Pyi Taw Council Area, Magway, Thayet and Pakokku District in Magway Region, Pyay District in Bago Region, Sagaing, Monywa and Shwebo Districts in Sagaing Region, Myeik District in Taninthayi Region, Kyaukse, Myingyan, Meiktila, Yamethin Districts in Mandalay Region and Sittwe District in Rakhine State.


How the global response to river blindness gained pace

Louise Hamill
A lot has been achieved in the last few decades, but more remains to be done. Currently, at least 217.5 million people are still at risk of contracting river blindness – that’s more than three times the population of the UK. In 2019, WHO highlighted several priority areas that, if addressed, will help speed up elimination in countries where the disease remains endemic. One key area is to ensure all those in need of treatment are receiving it. To this end, we are supporting river blindness elimination mapping, working with partners in Ghana, Nigeria and Mozambique to determine whether areas that have not been offered treatment so far would benefit from it.

Effects of Direct Costs of River Blindness Illness and Perceived Benefits of Community-directed Treatment with Ivermectin. . .

F. O. Ogebe, Abah Daniel and P. A. Burbwa
Journal of Advances in Medicine and Medical Research
The study assessed households’ direct cost of Onchocerciasis illness and the perceived benefits of community-directed treatment with ivermectin in Benue State, Nigeria. . . The study identified social and health benefits of community-directed treatment with ivermectin (CDTI). The social benefits include: Ability to work better (70.7%), acceptance by peers (52.3%) and respect in the community (47.7%) while the health benefits to the respondents were improved vision (69.4%), reduced itching (65.1%) and deworming (61.1%).


Economic evaluations of human schistosomiasis interventions: a systematic review and identification of associated research needs

Hugo C. Turner et al.
Wellcome Open Research
Schistosomiasis is one of the most prevalent neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) with an estimated 229 million people requiring preventive treatment worldwide. Recommendations for preventive chemotherapy strategies have been made by the World Health Organization (WHO) whereby the frequency of treatment is determined by the settings prevalence. Despite recent progress, many countries still need to scale up treatment and important questions remain regarding optimal control strategies. This paper presents a systematic review of the economic evaluations of human schistosomiasis interventions.

Spotlight on experiences of medicine unavailability: Access to medicines challenges for NCDs and NTDs. . .

Nadya Wells, François Chappuis and David Beran
Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology
Many actors responded to the London Declaration which reinforced praziquantel’s central role in control and elimination of schistosomiasis whereas access to affordable insulin emerged secondary to framing around prevention and management of diabetes. For insulin key stakeholders are not aligned around access and the position taken by pharmaceutical companies as donors versus commercial actors was critical to sustainable affordable access to these medicines. Integrated access models for low resource populations need shared pathways given the increasing need for available and affordable essential medicines in the context of Universal Health Coverage.

Soil-Transmitted Helminthiasis

Programmatic implications of the TUMIKIA trial on community-wide treatment for soil-transmitted helminths. . .

Hugo C. Turner and Donald A.P. Bundy
Parasites & Vectors
The epidemiological evidence for an additional benefit from a switch to community-wide treatment has yet to be proven to represent “good value for money” across different settings. Further work is needed before changes in policy are made regarding the use of community-wide treatment for STH control, including comprehensive assessments of its additional public health benefits and costs across a range of scenarios, accounting for the presence of alternative treatment delivery platforms.


Schools must provide soap to maintain basic hygiene

Emma Stanford and Hugh Taylor
As part of Indigenous Eye Health at the University of Melbourne, we have been working in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia for more than 10 years to eliminate trachoma, a preventable eye disease which can result in blindness if untreated. Australia is the world’s only developed country to have trachoma, which is still found in some remote Aboriginal communities in Central Australia. After many years of concerted effort, trachoma rates in children have fallen but we still have more work to do. Trachoma rates first began to fall globally 100 years ago when living conditions and hygiene began to improve, particularly in major cities.

Kenyan Doctor Fighting Blindness in the Bush [VIDEO]

Noni Ireri
Ngurotin Lung'or, the only female volunteer in the area has faced considerable resistance in her efforts to identify those ailing and bring them to surgery, but she has remained undeterred in her efforts. "My grandfather told us about trachoma, and the local way where they used herbs and scratched the patient’s eye as a form of treatment. This was making things worse and many people went blind. I put all my mind on learning about trachoma, so I’ll be able to educate my people and reduce their pain,” states Lung’or.


A call to action for universal health coverage: Why we need to address gender inequities in the NTD community

Kim Ozano et al.
PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases
The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and pledge to leave no one behind have raised the importance of ensuring equitable health outcomes and healthcare delivery. Multisectoral approaches to tackling neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), including prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and healthcare, have had a limited focus on gender. Yet, gender roles and relations shape vulnerability to NTDs, access to prevention and treatment, and experience of living with NTDs.

NTDs: A 60-year history

Alan Fenwick
Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
It is still not common knowledge in the western world that we are moving closer to the elimination of some of the extremely prevalent Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) that exist around the world. Indeed, most people in Europe and North America have never even heard of schistosomiasis, hookworm, lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis and trachoma. Among the “NTD community”, which is still relatively small, we know that last year, in 2019, over 1 billion treatments were delivered to the poorest people living in endemic areas in Africa, the Indian Sub-Continent, the Western Pacific and in South America. We also know that the billion doses of medications were all donated free of charge by several pharmaceutical companies and delivered by Ministries of Health and Education in the recipient countries, with funding from two main bilateral donors (the USA and UK) and by numerous philanthropic organisations. One great success has been achieved without medication, and that is the almost-eradication of guinea worm from 3 million infected worldwide to less than 20 in 2019.

Making Life a Little Bit Sweeter

Simon Bush
The Medicine Maker
There is no doubt that the field of neglected tropical diseases is challenging. It's one thing to aim to reduce the incidence of disease, but elimination is incredibly difficult, especially once you’ve reached over 90 percent of your target population and need to find those last few patients – who may be located in remote areas, or areas of conflict with security risks for aid and healthcare workers. For pharma companies, donating important drugs for years also comes with financial implications. But now, more than ever, it is important that all stakeholders – governments, pharmaceutical companies, charities and community groups – work together to ensure donations are sustainable and delivered safely.

Parasite associations predict infection risk: incorporating co-infections in predictive models for neglected tropical diseases

Nicholas J. Clark et al.
Parasites & Vectors
Conditional random fields (CRF) is a multivariate graphical network method that opens new doors in parasite risk mapping by (i) predicting co-infections with high accuracy; (ii) isolating associations among parasites; and (iii) quantifying how these associations change across landscapes. We built a spatial CRF to estimate infection risks for Ascaris lumbricoides, Trichuris trichiura, hookworms (Ancylostoma duodenale and Necator americanus) and Schistosoma mansoni using data from a national survey of Rwandan schoolchildren.

Prioritising multi-sector collaborations in the funding of NTD programmes

Mohiuddin Al Helal, Arthur TL Cheung, Meron Kifle and Minah F Rashad
University of Oxford
The following is part of a training exercise for MSc in International Health and Tropical Medicine students. This briefing paper summarises the (lack of) empirical evidence for the benefits and risks of promoting multi-sector collaborations, in the funding of programmes against Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). It also proposes a framework, that highlights factors commonly cited as theoretically important to the success or failure of collaboration.

ISNTD Connect

The International Society for Neglected Tropical Diseases
In this challenging time where countless work places, universities, schools and public places have temporarily closed their doors and everything’s a bit unknown, we hope that continuing professional conversations online can provide a practical way to further knowledge-sharing, close some of the gaps left where ongoing research has been paused, and provide mutual support. Next week (March 23-27), we will be launching our ISNTD Connect short meetings online, where researchers and professionals in the fields of tropical diseases and public health will be able to present and discuss ongoing research and topics.

Nigeria: In the Shadow of Climate Change - the Need to Focus On Better Water Quality in Nigeria

Nigeria Health Watch
Water is one of our most essential human needs. It enables people to practice both personal and environmental hygiene. It is needed for drinking, washing, cleaning, bathing, and cooking, including of course, the popular Nigerian Jollof rice. As important as water is, many Nigerians face a constant struggle to find clean water for their daily activities. Travelling by road across many Nigerian cities, towns and villages, it is a common sight to see men, women and children trekking for miles in search of water. . . Cholera outbreaks are common in states like Kano, Edo and Niger, while river blindness is common in Imo state and schistosomiasis in Ogun and Ekiti states. All these issues are water borne or water related diseases, linked to unclean, unsafe water.

CALL FOR PROPOSALS: Operational Research to Support the Elimination of Communicable Diseases. . . .

TDR in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), is pleased to announce the 2020 – 2021 call for applications for the Joint PAHO/TDR Small Grant Scheme for operational research. The objective of the call is to facilitate and strengthen elimination-oriented operational research in selected communicable diseases that are potential candidates for elimination through an integrated approach. Submission deadline: 19 April 2020


Predicting the Environmental Suitability and Population at Risk of Podoconiosis in Africa

Kebede Deribe et al.
In Africa, environmental suitability for podoconiosis was predicted in 29 countries. By 2020, the total population in areas suitable for podoconiosis was estimated at 114.5 million people, (95% confidence interval: 109.4-123.9) with 16.9 million in areas suitable for both lymphatic filariasis and podoconiosis. Of the total 5,712 implementation units defined by WHO in Africa, 1,655 (29.0%) were found to be environmentally suitable for podoconiosis

With Bare Feet in the Soil: Podoconiosis, a Neglected Cause of Tropical Lymphoedema

David J. Chandler, Marlous L. Grijsen and Lucinda C. Fuller
Podoconiosis is a form of lymphoedema that occurs in tropical highland areas in genetically susceptible individuals who are exposed to irritant volcanic soils. The disease is preventable through consistent use of footwear and attention to foot hygiene; however, in endemic areas there is a strong barefoot tradition, and many cannot afford shoes. Patients with podoconiosis face significant physical disability, psychological comorbidity, reduced quality of life and experience frequent episodes of systemic illness due to acute dermatolymphangioadenitis. This review provides an overview of this important and neglected tropical skin disease and summarizes the latest research findings.

Factors associated with cutaneous ulcers among children in two yaws-endemic districts in Ghana

Rafiq Nii Attoh Okine et al.
Infectious Diseases of Poverty
Yaws is a chronic relapsing disease caused by Treponema pallidum subspecies pertunue, which can result in severe disability and deformities. Children below the age of 15 years in resource-poor communities are the most affected. Several non-specific factors facilitate the continuous transmission and resurgence of the disease. Endemic communities in rural Ghana continue to report cases despite the roll out of several intervention strategies in the past years. The objective of this study was to determine the factors associated with cutaneous ulcers among children in two yaws-endemic districts in Ghana.

Mapping of yaws endemicity in Ghana; Lessons to strengthen the planning and implementation of yaws eradication

VieLaud Anthony Wihibeturo Basing, Moses Djan, Shirley Victoria Simpson and Yaw Adu-Sarkodi
With results showing that single dose azithromycin is effective in the treatment of yaws, the World Health Organisation introduced the Morges strategy with the intent to eradicate yaws by 2020. Ghana is one of the countries with the most yaws cases globally, and the National Yaws Eradication Program in Ghana intends to conduct Mass Drug Administration (MDA) of endemic communities in line with the Total Community Treatment plan of the Morges strategy.

The potential economic value of a therapeutic Chagas disease vaccine for pregnant women to prevent congenital transmission

Sarah M.Bartsch et al.
Currently, there are no solutions to prevent congenital transmission of Chagas disease during pregnancy, which affects 1–40% of pregnant women in Latin America and is associated with a 5% transmission risk. With therapeutic vaccines under development, now is the right time to determine the economic value of such a vaccine to prevent congenital transmission.

Guinea Worm Wrap-Up #266

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The Carter Center
Chad’s Minister of Public Health, the Honorable Professor Mahmoud Youssouf Khayal, presided over the opening and closing ceremonies for the Chad Guinea Worm Eradication Program’s 8th Annual Program Review, which was held at the Hotel Ledger Plaza in N’Djamena on January 22-23, 2020. Mali’s Guinea Worm Eradication Program held its annual in-country Program Review at the d’Azalai Hotel Salam in Bamako on January 29-30, 2020. Cameroon reported a case of Guinea worm disease in a four-year-old Massa girl from the village of Nouldaina in Guere district of Extreme Nord Province.

More than 600 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Africa

World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa
More than 600 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in 34 countries in Africa as of 19 March, compared with 147 cases one week ago. Although the region has seen a significant increase in confirmed cases recently, there are still fewer cases than in other parts of the world. “The rapid evolution of COVID-19 in Africa is deeply worrisome and a clear signal for action,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa. “But we can still change the course of this pandemic. Governments must draw on all of their resources and capabilities and strengthen their response.”

Modelers Struggle to Predict the Future of the COVID-19 Pandemic

David Adam
The Scientist
Like any other models, the projections of how the outbreak will unfold, how many people will become infected, and how many will die, are only as reliable as the scientific information they rest on. And most modelers’ efforts so far have focused on improving these data, rather than making premature predictions. “Most of the work that modelers have done recently or in the first part of the epidemic hasn’t really been coming up with models and predictions, which is I think how most people think of it,” says John Edmunds, who works in the Centre for the Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. “Most of the work has really been around characterizing the epidemiology, trying to estimate key parameters. I don’t really class that as modeling but it tends to be the modelers that do it.”

COVID-19: the medium is the message

Laurie Garrett
The Lancet
If financial markets are jittery about the flow of information and disruption to production and supply chains with the global spread of COVID-19 and governments are seeking to avoid panic among their populaces, they need to invest in bastions of truth—or, at least, in those that attempt to identify information based on scientific principles. The “truth” can, and should, change as investigations and data analysis of COVID-19 proceed, but its bottom line ought to consistently reflect empiricism, a solid dose of scepticism and scrutiny, and absolute conviction in timely dissemination of life-saving research and analysis. And those bastions must resist attempts to sway their messaging to reflect institutional or political interests.

Upcoming Events 

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

Leprosy Research Initiative Spring Meeting - CANCELLED
April 2-3, 2020, Breukelen, Netherlands
On the 2nd and 3rd of April 2020 the Leprosy Research Initiative (LRI) is organising its fifth annual Spring Meeting at Van der Valk Hotel Breukelen in the Netherlands. During this meeting, the progress and results of currently ongoing LRI funded research projects will be presented to the LRI Scientific Review Committee, the LRI Steering Committee and representatives from all funded research groups. For the third time the principal investigators of R2STOP funded research projects will join the meeting as well and share their research findings. The meeting also offers great opportunities to meet with and learn from fellow researchers and stimulates participants to engage in lively discussions, and to share ideas between researchers, funders and other stakeholders.

British Society for Parasitology Spring Meeting - CANCELLED
April 14-17, 2020, Edinburgh, Scotland
The 2020 Spring meeting of the British Society for Parasitology will be held in the city of Edinburgh, UK. Edinburgh boasts a long association with parasitology including the study of malaria, a relationship that will be celebrated with a special stream running throughout the meeting focused on and around Plasmodium.

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

Bill Foege Global Health Awards
April 30, 2020, Atlanta, GA
MAP International annually presents the Bill Foege Global Health Awards to recognize people and organizations whose contributions to the progress of global health measure substantially. Leaders in the global health community consider Dr. Bill Foege as a folk hero in the global health community, crediting him as "the man most responsible for eradicating smallpox."

Beijing +25 Mexico Forum
May 7-8, 2020, Mexico City, Mexico
The Generation Equality Forum will call for urgent action on achieving equality, demanding equal economic and social opportunities for women while calling for an end to all forms of violence against women and girls. 

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

6th World One Health Congress
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.

CHOGM 2020
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
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
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.