Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a mixture of treatable and preventable diseases that continue to place a heavy burden on over one billion people on the planet. They affect the world’s poorest, most marginalized, and most remote communities in the world. They are a consequence and cause of poverty as they thrive where access to clean water, sanitation and healthcare is limited. Their impact on individuals and communities can be devastating. Many of them cause severe disfigurement and disabilities. They impact on life expectancy, education and economic opportunities of affected individuals and the communities they live in.
Why a focus on 10 NTDs?
Diseases with essential ingredients for immediate targeted assistance.
Of the many NTDs, the WHO selected 17 which have transmission characteristics or treatment possibilities that make them very good candidates to be effectively controlled and, in many cases, eliminated or even controlled. An outline of strategies and targets to be achieved by 2020 were presented in the WHO’s Accelerating Work to Overcome the Global Impact of Neglected Tropical Diseases: A Roadmap for Implementation.
That document, commonly referred to as the “WHO Roadmap,” has acted as a call to arms to the international community and initiated many global discussions on how best to support the WHO and the endemic countries to achieve these goals. When industry joined the collaborative discussions alongside donors, and major implementing agencies, they created the critical mass necessary through their pledges to provide some of the essential drugs used to combat many of these diseases.
During the discussion that took place in London in January 2012, although participants felt that all NTDs should eventually be addressed, it was resolved that 10 of the 17 NTDs had the essential ingredients for immediate targeted assistance. Five of the ten covered in the London Declaration can be controlled through what is known as mass drug administration—that is, large-scale population treatment with safe and effective medicines to all the people living in high-risk areas. These include: lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis, soil transmitted helminths (hookworm, roundworm, and whipworm), and trachoma.
The other five can be controlled by what is known as innovative and intensified disease management (IDM)—that is, individual diagnosis and treatment, surgery where needed, care and rehabilitation of infected individuals. These include insect-transmitted diseases (Chagas disease, Guinea worm disease, human African trypanosomiasis, known as HAT or sleeping sickness, leprosy and visceral leishmaniasis.