New analysis details devastating toll of neglected tropical diseases in sub-Saharan Africa

August 24, 2009

An analysis published August 25 in the open-access journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases sheds new light on the toll that neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) take on sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), with an estimated 500 million people suffering from these debilitating and sometimes deadly diseases. Helminth infections account for approximately 85% of the NTD burden. Overall, the NTD burden may be equivalent to more than double that caused by tuberculosis and up to one-half of SSA's malaria disease burden.

"It is appalling that helminth infections and other NTDs are having such a devastating impact on the poor in sub-Saharan Africa, given that we have effective treatments to alleviate their sufferings," said Peter Hotez, co-author of the analysis, President of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, and Distinguished Research Professor at George Washington University. "For $200-$400 million a year over five years, we could significantly reduce the burden of helminth infections and other NTDs from much of sub-Saharan Africa. That's a minimal investment with maximum returns."

While the prevalence of helminth infections has diminished elsewhere in the world, it has remained relatively constant in SSA. Between one-quarter and one-third of SSA's population is affected by one or more helminth infections, with children, especially school-aged children, disproportionately affected. Helminth infections, like other NTDs, produce profound physical and mental deficits in children. In addition, a high percentage of pregnant women are also affected.

The authors note that NTDs in SSA may produce a level of disease equivalent to, or as much as, one-half and one-third of the region's malaria and HIV/AIDs disease burden, respectively, suggesting that the NTDs represent a formidable public health challenge in the region. Given that treating NTDs could be achieved at affordable costs, the authors conclude that "helminth control should continue to be prioritized by public health experts, health ministries, and global policy makers."

The authors also say that high priority must be placed on examining the impact that reducing helminth infections might have on malaria and HIV/AIDS. In many parts of SSA, helminths are co-endemic with malaria, worsening the course of the disease; in others, schistosomiasis causes genital lesions and may increase a woman's susceptibility to HIV/AIDS.

"A full analysis of all Africa's NTDs is an essential step towards prioritizing these conditions relative to ongoing HIV/AIDs and malaria control efforts supported by private foundations and the Group of Eight nations," the authors concluded.
-end-
FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE: The authors received no specific funding for this study.

COMPETING INTERESTS: PJH is a co-founder of the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Disease Control and an inventor on two international patents for hookworm vaccines.

PLEASE ADD THIS LINK TO THE PUBLISHED ARTICLE IN ONLINE VERSIONS OF YOUR REPORT: http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0000412 (link will go live upon embargo lift)

CITATION: Hotez PJ, Kamath A (2009) Neglected Tropical Diseases in Sub-Saharan Africa: Review of Their Prevalence, Distribution, and Disease Burden. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 3(8): e412. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0000412

CONTACT:

Lesly Simmons, APR
Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases
202-621-1692 office
240-381-5319 cell
202-842-7689 fax

Disclaimer

This press release refers to an upcoming article in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases. The release is provided by the article authors and their institutions. Any opinions expressed in these releases or articles are the personal views of the journal staff and/or article contributors, and do not necessarily represent the views or policies of PLoS. PLoS expressly disclaims any and all warranties and liability in connection with the information found in the releases and articles and your use of such information.

About PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases

PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases (http://www.plosntds.org/) is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal devoted to the pathology, epidemiology, prevention, treatment, and control of the neglected tropical diseases, as well as public policy relevant to this group of diseases. All works published in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases are open access, which means that everything is immediately and freely available subject only to the condition that the original authorship and source are properly attributed. The Public Library of Science uses the Creative Commons Attribution License, and copyright is retained by the authors.

About the Public Library of Science

The Public Library of Science (PLoS) is a non-profit organization of scientists and physicians committed to making the world's scientific and medical literature a freely available public resource. For more information, visit http://www.plos.org.

PLOS

Related Malaria Articles from Brightsurf:

Clocking in with malaria parasites
Discovery of a malaria parasite's internal clock could lead to new treatment strategies.

Breakthrough in malaria research
An international scientific consortium led by the cell biologists Volker Heussler from the University of Bern and Oliver Billker from the UmeƄ University in Sweden has for the first time systematically investigated the genome of the malaria parasite Plasmodium throughout its life cycle in a large-scale experiment.

Scientists close in on malaria vaccine
Scientists have taken another big step forward towards developing a vaccine that's effective against the most severe forms of malaria.

New tool in fight against malaria
Modifying a class of molecules originally developed to treat the skin disease psoriasis could lead to a new malaria drug that is effective against malaria parasites resistant to currently available drugs.

Malaria expert warns of need for malaria drug to treat severe cases in US
The US each year sees more than 1,500 cases of malaria, and currently there is limited access to an intravenously administered (IV) drug needed for the more serious cases.

Monkey malaria breakthrough offers cure for relapsing malaria
A breakthrough in monkey malaria research by two University of Otago scientists could help scientists diagnose and treat a relapsing form of human malaria.

Getting to zero malaria cases in zanzibar
New research led by the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs, Ifakara Health Institute and the Zanzibar Malaria Elimination Program suggests that a better understanding of human behavior at night -- when malaria mosquitoes are biting -- could be key to preventing lingering cases.

Widely used malaria treatment to prevent malaria in pregnant women
A global team of researchers, led by a research team at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM), are calling for a review of drug-based strategies used to prevent malaria infections in pregnant women, in areas where there is widespread resistance to existing antimalarial medicines.

Protection against Malaria: A matter of balance
A balanced production of pro and anti-inflammatory cytokines at two years of age protects against clinical malaria in early childhood, according to a study led by ISGlobal, an institution supported by ''la Caixa'' Foundation.

The math of malaria
A new mathematical model for malaria shows how competition between parasite strains within a human host reduces the odds of drug resistance developing in a high-transmission setting.

Read More: Malaria News and Malaria Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.