New Global Alliance Unveils Integrated Strategy to Combat Neglected Diseases in The New England Journal of Medicine
"This NTD control blueprint represents a historic assault on diseases of poverty in developing countries and will help catalyze international efforts to address the Millennium Development Goals established by the United Nations," said lead author, Peter J. Hotez, M.D., Ph.D., President of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Professor and Chair of Microbiology, Immunology and Tropical Medicine at George Washington University.
In addition to Dr. Hotez, the authors of the paper represent several founding organizations of the Global Network, including: David H. Molyneux, Ph.D., D.Sc., Lymphatic Filariasis Support Centre (Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine); Alan Fenwick, Ph.D., Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (Imperial College of London); Sonia Erlich Sachs, M.D. and Jeffrey D. Sachs, Ph.D., Earth Institute at Columbia University; and Jacob Kumaresan, Ph.D., formerly of the International Trachoma Initiative.
Neglected tropical diseases are 13 parasitic and bacterial infections that blind, disfigure, disable, kill and contribute to an ongoing cycle of poverty and stigmatization that leaves millions unable to work or participate in family and community life. The Global Network's "rapid impact package" targets the seven most common NTDs: ascariasis; trichuriasis; hookworm infection; schistosomiasis; lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis); trachoma; and onchocerciasis (river blindness).
While NTDs are the most pervasive diseases afflicting the world's poorest populations, they are often overshadowed, in terms of visibility and resource commitment, by the "Big Three"--HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. However, the immense disability and poverty associated with NTDs ranks them closely with malaria and tuberculosis on the roster of important health problems in the developing world, according to Dr. Hotez. The impact of NTDs on worker productivity alone causes annual losses of billions of dollars.
There is also growing evidence that the treatment of NTDs may represent an opportunity to concurrently target HIV/AIDS and malaria, thereby making NTD control even more compelling, according to the paper's co-author, Professor David H. Molyneux, Ph.D., D.Sc., Director of the Lymphatic Filariasis Support Centre at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, United Kingdom. "Since many of the world's poorest people are simultaneously infected with NTDs, HIV/AIDS and malaria, there is a great opportunity to combine efforts to bring the needed drugs to them," said Dr. Molyneux. "In fact, a Nigerian study found that the administration of drugs to control NTDs increased the uptake of bednets and other malaria control measures by up to nine times, which is remarkable."
Global Network Issues "Call for Action" to G-8
"Publication of this paper in The New England Journal of Medicine provides us with a tremendous platform to expand the global health dialogue on what constitutes 'diseases of poverty' from the 'Big Three' to the 'Big Four,' including NTDs," said Dr. Hotez. "Therefore, the Global Network is seizing this moment to call upon the world's most economically advanced countries, the Group of Eight nations (G-8), to allocate the funding required to control and eliminate NTDs. The solution for NTDs is so inexpensive--just 50 cents per person, per year--which means you can treat a population of 500 million for approximately $250 million per year. The Global Network has developed the blueprint--now it's the G-8's turn to deliver the funding."
Funding of NTD control by the G-8--and by philanthropic donors--would help each of these nations meet their obligations under the Millennium Declaration, which was adopted by world leaders at the United Nations in 2000, according to the paper's co-author, Professor Alan Fenwick, Ph.D., Director of the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative at Imperial College of London. The Millennium Declaration established eight goals to eliminate extreme poverty, hunger and disease by 2015. In particular, the sixth goal--"to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases"--addresses the health and economic impact of infectious diseases. "In my view, NTDs top the list of 'other diseases,'" said Dr. Fenwick. "NTD control will allow current victims to enjoy healthier and more productive lives. It also will enable us to develop a new generation of treatment and prevention tools, including drugs and vaccines, which will spare future generations of the misery and suffering caused by NTDs."
Joining the Fight Against NTDs
NTD control costs only 50 cents per person, per year. This cost includes drug delivery, health education materials, training of personnel, monitoring and evaluation. To join the fight against NTDs, you can make a secure, online, tax-deductible donation at www.gnntdc.org by clicking the "Get Involved" option.
About Sabin Vaccine Institute and the Global Network for NTDs
The Sabin Vaccine Institute (www.sabin.org) is a global health, medical research organization based in Washington, D.C. that is leading the fight against diseases of poverty. Sabin serves as Secretariat of the Global Network for NTDs (www.gnntdc.org), which was launched at the Clinton Global Initiative in 2006. The Global Network is an alliance of leading organizations dedicated to reducing poverty and improving global health through tropical disease control. It includes: the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (Imperial College of London); Sabin Vaccine Institute; International Trachoma Initiative; Lymphatic Filariasis Support Centre (Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine); The Task Force for Child Survival and Development; Helen Keller International; and the Earth Institute at Columbia University.
Posted: September 2007