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Editor’s choice

From the range of articles recently featured on TropIKA.net, Editor Paul Chinnock offers a personal selection of items of particular importance.

Archive for October 19th, 2009

Oct 19 2009

Neglected diseases in neglected regions

Posted by: Paul Chinnock - Editorial Team

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The infectious diseases of poverty exact a massive burden on the populations of Asia and Africa, but their impact in the Americas is often forgotten. (The extent of this neglect was made clear in a research article published a year ago in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases).

It is therefore encouraging to learn that the Inter-American Development Bank and the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases intend to mobilize $30 million from the public and private sectors to raise awareness and funding for the control and elimination of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in the region – see TropIKA.net Blog. We also report in TropIKA.net News of new efforts to eliminate malaria and filariasis from the Americas.

Meanwhile, the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative has announced that it has established a cooperative agreement with a pharmaceutical company for the clinical development of a drug that has been shown in lab tests to have activity against Trypanosma cruzi, the pathogen responsible for Chagas disease. This disease is confined to the Americans and kills at least 200,000 people every year. There is no vaccine and no specific treatment. Control of the disease vectors (triatomine bugs) remains the main focus of efforts to fight the disease and findings reported in a new research article will help guide control programmes in deciding when it is best to spray insecticide.

Oceania is another part of the world where infectious diseases remain an important cause of ill-health but receive little attention from the international media. Nevertheless, efforts are being pursued to control or eliminate these conditions and it is heartening to read a recent report of major successes achieved against malaria in Vanuatu and Solomon Islands.

TropIKA.net continues to highlight and comment upon new research findings, wherever the studies have been conducted. Our recent selections have included an important step forward in understanding how the parasite responsible for leishmaniasis establishes itself in its human host, a prevalence study that confirms the return of yaws to the Democratic Republic of Congo, and a study from China which examines the factors explaining why so many tuberculosis patients fail to complete their course of treatment. An Ethiopian study provides an illustration of the poor performance that is often seen in TB programmes, thus demonstrating the importance of monitoring and evaluation.

The TropIKA.net team cannot, of course, identify all the new reports of research into the infectious disease of poverty that are of particular significance. We need the help of our readers. If a new paper strikes you as being of exceptional importance, let us know about it.

One piece of good news is that an increasing amount of research is being conducted in developing countries. There has been an encouraging rise in the number of researchers in these countries, which doubled in a five-year period according to a report from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics. There is still of course a long way to go for the South to catch up. One initiative that should further speed up progress is the African Network for Drugs and Diagnostics Innovation (ANDI). The network aims to increase new health products developed in Africa by Africans. The ANDI 2009 meeting, which took place in South Africa this month, received in-depth coverage on TropIKA.net.

But sometimes the problem is not a lack of basic research. We highlight an opinion article which argues that the lack of progress against schistosomiasis in Africa represents one of this decade’s greatest failures. Cheap and effective treatments already exist for this disease, the second most common parasitic condition after malaria, but only 5% of Africans who need treatment actually receive it. Progress against the infectious diseases of poverty requires that the needs of neglected people should be met, in whichever part of the world they may live.

Paul Chinnock
Editor, TropIKA.net