Never heard of it!

I do have an interest in health and science, so don’t get tired of the steady meander of health messages the government sends out. When I lived in New York last year I was actually surprised that there were hardly any on the TV, buses, Subway etc. I guess the agenda may be different in the US because Americans pay for their healthcare. In the UK sick people cost the government money because healthcare is ‘free’ via taxes. Smoking cessation is always on the NHS’ agenda, you may have seen the latest advert showing a man smoking a cigarette with a tumour growing out of it. I think it’s effective, but I’m not addicted to cigarettes, so it may impact me but whether it will scare the 20plus-a-day smoker is up for debate. Cancer is increasing in the developed world and we are hearing about it more and more; there are some diseases that don’t roll off your tongue as easily, the ones you’ve never heard of – they are neglected tropical diseases. Here are a few tongue twisters that you won’t find in a Christmas cracker:

Neglected   Tropical Disease (NTD) Transmission Some symptoms
Trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) Germs carried by tsetse flies Brain swelling, fever,   uncontrollable tiredness
Ebola  (hemorrhagic  fever) 5  different types of Ebola virus, transmitted from wild animals to humans and   then from human-to-human

Arthritis, vomiting, bleeding from eyes, ears, and nose with a 90% fatality rate


Helminthiases  (intestinal worms) Parasitic worms   / hookworms, lay eggs with are excreted in human faeces which contaminate  soil and water supply

Digestive problems and the immune system is affected

Dracunculiasis  (guinea worm) Water fleas  carrying guinea-worm larvae grow into 1 metre long worms inside the body.   Infected people put their sore limbs in water to soothe the pain; the worms  then release more larvae into the water which infect someone else and the   cycle continues.

Painful burning blisters usually in the lower leg, where the worms come   out

Many of these neglected diseases kill their victims slowly but some, like guinea worm don’t, it just makes victims very sick so they are incapable of farming their land, and cannot grow food to sell or feed their families. As you have guessed they are rife in tropical countries including Mexico, Guatemala, Brazil, Guyana, Philippines, India and others in Latin America, Caribbean, Africa and Asia. It’s not easy to obtain accurate statistics but estimates claim 1 billion people are chronically infected with NTDs and only 0.6% of the international health budget is spent on them. This does not include HIV, tuberculosis and malaria which receive 42% of the international health budget allocated to diseases prevalent in tropical regions. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines NTDs as ‘ancient diseases of poverty’, unlike in the developed world healthcare systems and medication is not easily accessible and there are no financial benefits handed out by the government if people are unable to physically work due to sickness.

Research at the Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases: Bloomberg /
More research: Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases Bloomberg /

I do admire Bill and Melinda Gates, I am sure you are aware of their foundation and herculean efforts along with other organisations to fight diseases in the developing world including polio which was eradicated in the UK in 1982, after the first effective vaccine was developed in 1952. I re-tweeted (you can follow me at – Bill Gates’ video ‘Progress in 2012 has made for the most convincing case yet that ending polio is possible’. 2012 has been a good year for the quest of polio eradication; this year India was freed from the iron clasp of the disease, leaving only 3 countries in the world with endemic polio. Afghanistan and Pakistan have both seen cases fall due to accessible vaccinations for children but unfortunately Nigeria has seen an increase in cases.

We need more (ethnic) people! Clinical trial volunteers in ThailandSanofi Pasteur
We need more (ethnic) people! Clinical trial volunteers in Thailand
Sanofi Pasteur

There are many obstacles to tacking NTDs including political stability but apparently more research is being done and there has been an increase in funding from $286 million in 2007 to $460 in 2011. As seen with polio it can be done. Pharmaceutical companies rightly criticized for not making medicines affordable in the developing world are also on aboard with tackling NTDs. Thirteen pharmaceutical companies signed the ‘London Declaration’ to supply drugs and support. Another controversial issue in the medical world is the involvement of ethnic people in clinical trials for medications. The UK and US have admitted that there are some minorities who are underrepresented. Professionals argued that there are not enough ethnic people involved in clinical trials to draw sold conclusions on  medications. US-based epidemiology professor Lewis Kuller commented on the issue saying “to discover why prostate cancer is more common in blacks, we should look at blacks in the US, blacks in Tobago, blacks in West Africa and compare those groups to whites.” Prostate cancer is not an NTD, but conducting clinical trials for treatment of diseases should include all ethnic groups to get a true picture of whether drugs are effective across the global population.


doubleaad : AdelinA

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