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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.

A long list

10 Mar 2011

Posted by: Paul Chinnock - Editorial Team

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The list of the infectious diseases of poverty (IDPs) is a long one. How should the individual diseases on this list be prioritized when funding is allocated for their research and control? The third G-FINDER survey reports on the sources of research funding and on how it is currently being spent. In 2009 there was an increase in the proportion of funding coming from public institutions and a corresponding decline in what was received from philanthropic organizations. Is a trend perhaps emerging? In a TropIKA.net editorial [1], we ask what happens now.

According to G-FINDER there are encouraging signs that funding is being distributed more widely amongst the individual IDPs. And at TropIKA.net we continue with our efforts to report on important new developments across the full range of these diseases. Our recent articles on tuberculosis, for example, include a news story highlighting the paucity of diagnostic tools for TB in children [2]; there are also reports on research to develop new diagnostic tests [3] and treatments [4] and a guest blog from the TuBerculosis Vaccine Initiative [5].

Malaria once again has once again featured strongly on TropIKA.net, with reports of several new research initiatives, one of which focuses on vivax malaria [6] which generally receives less attention than the falciparum form of the disease. Combining the use of bednets with preventive treatment [7] and the search for a single-dose cure [8] have been the subjects of other recent studies. Controversy has surrounded new research on the potential use of species of fungi that could reduce the ability of mosquitoes to transmit malaria [9]. One research group believes that the use of genetically modified (GM) forms of the fungi offers the most promising way forward.

We are increasingly hearing of the use of genetic modification in the search for new tools for the control of the IDPs – whether this involves vaccines, drugs or vector control. But hostility towards the use of any form of GM technology is now widespread in many parts of the world. The release of GM mosquitoes in Malaysia, for the control of dengue fever, went ahead in the face of protests by environmentalists [10]. Scientists should lose no time in making major efforts to address public concerns about GM. New products developed with this technology must be acceptable to communities before they can be brought into use.

Dengue has also been the subject of several other new reports on TropIKA.net [11,12,13,14,]. Indeed such is the increasing level of interest in this infection, of which there are 50–100 million cases every year, that the time must surely be coming when it can no longer be described as a “neglected tropical disease”.

Cholera, in contrast, does not figure prominently on the research agenda, even though the current pandemic of the disease, which began in 1961, is showing no sign of weakening and may indeed be picking up speed – as we have discussed in a TropIKA.net editorial [15].

Other diseases also featured on TropIKA.net, and which still deserve the “neglected” label, include trachoma [16] leprosy [17] cysticercosis [18] and Buruli ulcer [19]. There is also a geographical aspect to neglect. It is easy to forget, for example, that malaria is a problem – not just in Africa and Asia – but also in many Pacific countries [20] and that many IDPs are still a burden in the Americas [11,21].

Whatever the disease, access to reliable information and to the findings of research is crucial for policy makers and practitioners. TropIKA.net aims to facilitate the process of communicating such information but access to scientific journals remains a problem in many of the world’s poorest countries [22].

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