by Dr. Iain Corness
WHO targeting 17 tropical diseases
The World Health Organization (WHO)
urges affected countries to scale up their investment in tackling 17
neglected tropical diseases in order to improve the health and well-being of
more than 1.5 billion people.
This investment would represent as little as 0.1 percent of current domestic
expenditure on health in affected low and middle income countries for the
Neglected tropical diseases cause blindness, disfigurement, permanent
disability and death, particularly among the poor. WHO’s new report,
“Investing to Overcome the Impact of Neglected Tropical Diseases”, outlines
an investment case and essential package of interventions for these
“Increased investments by national governments can alleviate human misery,
distribute economic gains more evenly and free masses of people long trapped
in poverty,” says WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan.
Unfortunately, with the current “epidemic” of terrorist activity amongst the
poorer nations in Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, this concept of forward
thinking does not have much chance of being implemented. Boko Haram is not
renowned for worrying about social welfare.
Listed below is a short description of the 17 neglected tropical diseases,
also accessible at
Dengue: A mosquito-borne infection causing flu-like illness that may
develop into severe dengue and cause lethal complications.
Rabies: A preventable viral disease transmitted to humans through the
bites of infected dogs that is invariably fatal once symptoms develop.
Trachoma: A chlamydial infection transmitted through direct contact
with infectious eye or nasal discharge, or through indirect contact with
unsafe living conditions and hygiene practices, which left untreated causes
irreversible corneal opacities and blindness.
Buruli ulcer: A debilitating mycobacterial skin infection causing
severe destruction of the skin, bone and soft tissue.
Yaws: A chronic bacterial infection affecting mainly the skin and
Leprosy: A complex disease caused by infection mainly of the skin,
peripheral nerves, mucosa of the upper respiratory tract and eyes.
Chagas disease: A life-threatening illness transmitted to humans
through contact with vector insects (triatomine bugs), ingestion of
contaminated food, infected blood transfusions, congenital transmission,
organ transplantation or laboratory accidents.
Human African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness): A parasitic
infection spread by the bites of tsetse flies that is almost 100 percent
fatal without prompt diagnosis and treatment to prevent the parasites
invading the central nervous system.
Leishmaniases: Disease transmitted through the bites of infected
female sandflies that in its most severe (visceral) form attacks the
internal organs and in its most prevalent (cutaneous) form causes facial
ulcers, disfiguring scars and disability.
Taeniasis and neurocysticercosis: An infection caused by adult
tapeworms in human intestines. Cysticercosis results when humans ingest
tapeworm eggs that develop as larvae in tissues.
Dracunculiasis (guinea-worm disease): A nematode infection
transmitted exclusively by drinking-water contaminated with
parasite-infected water fleas.
Echinococcosis: Infection caused by the larval stages of tapeworms
forming pathogenic cysts in humans and transmitted when ingesting eggs most
commonly shed in feces of dogs and wild animals.
Foodborne trematodiases: Infection acquired by consuming fish,
vegetables and crustaceans contaminated with larval parasites.
Clonorchiasis, opisthorchiasis and fascioliasis are the main diseases.
Lymphatic filariasis: Infection transmitted by mosquitoes causing
abnormal enlargement of limbs and genitals from adult worms inhabiting and
reproducing in the lymphatic system.
Onchocerciasis (river blindness): Infection transmitted by the bite
of infected black flies causing severe itching and eye lesions as the adult
worm produces larvae and leading to visual impairment and permanent
Schistosomiasis: Trematode infections transmitted when larval forms
released by freshwater snails penetrate human skin during contact with
Soil-transmitted helminthiases: Nematode infections transmitted
through soil contaminated by human feces causing anemia, vitamin A
deficiency, stunted growth, malnutrition, intestinal obstruction and
In 2013, Colombia became the first country where WHO verified the
elimination of river blindness (onchocerciasis), followed by Ecuador in
Bangladesh and Nepal are poised to eliminate visceral leishmaniasis as a
public-health problem by the end of 2015.
And Dengue and Rabies can be found in Thailand!
The number of new cases of sleeping sickness (human African trypanosomiasis)
has dropped to fewer than 10,000 annually and this for the first time in 30
years with 6 314 cases reported in 2013.
In 2009 approximately 30 percent of children in need of preventive treatment
for soil-transmitted helminthiases were receiving it. Reaching 50 percent of
children with this treatment by end 2015 is achievable.
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