Neglected tropical diseases

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Neglected tropical diseases
A young boy from Panama with Chagas disease. It has manifested as an acute infection with swelling of one eye (chagoma).
Classification and external resources
ICD-10 Xxx.x
ICD-9-CM xxx

Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a diverse group of tropical infections which are especially common in low-income populations in developing regions of Africa, Asia, and the Americas. They are caused by a variety of pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, protozoa and helminths. These diseases are contrasted with the big three diseases (HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria), which generally receive greater treatment and research funding. In sub-Saharan Africa, the impact of these diseases as a group is comparable to malaria and tuberculosis.[1] NTD co-infection can also make HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis more deadly.[2]

In some cases, the treatments are relatively inexpensive. For example, the treatment for schistosomiasis is US$0.20 per child per year.[3] Nevertheless, control of neglected diseases is estimated to require funding of between US$2 billion to US$3 billion over the next five to seven years.[4] Some pharmaceutical companies have committed to donating all the drug therapies required, and mass drug administration (for example mass deworming) has been successfully accomplished in several countries.[5] However, preventative measures are often more accessible in the developed world, but not universally available in poorer areas.

Seventeen neglected tropical diseases are prioritized by WHO, though other organizations define NTDs differently. These diseases are common in 149 countries, affecting more than 1.4 billion people (including more than 500 million children)[6] and costing developing economies billions of dollars every year.[7] They resulted in 142,000 deaths in 2013—down from 204,000 deaths in 1990.[8] Of these 17, two were targeted for eradication (dracunculiasis (guinea-worm disease) by 2015 and yaws by 2020), and four for elimination (blinding trachoma, human African trypanosomiasis, leprosy and lymphatic filariasis by 2020).[7]

List of diseases[edit]

There is some debate among the WHO, CDC, and infectious disease experts over which diseases are classified as neglected tropical diseases. Feasey, a researcher in neglected tropical diseases, notes 13 neglected tropical diseases: ascariasis, Buruli ulcer, Chagas disease, dracunculiasis, hookworm infection, human African trypanosomiasis, Leishmaniasis, leprosy, lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis, trachoma, and trichuriasis.[9] Fenwick recognizes 12 "core" neglected tropical diseases: ascariasis, Buruli ulcer, Chagas disease, dracunculiasis, human African trypanosomiasis, Leishmaniasis, leprosy, lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis, trachoma, and trichuriasis.[10]

These diseases result from four different classes of causative pathogens: (i) protozoa (for Chagas disease, human African trypanosomiasis, leishmaniases); (ii) bacteria (for Buruli ulcer, leprosy, trachoma, yaws), (iii) helminths or metazoan worms (for cysticercosis/taeniasis, dracunculiasis, echinococcosis, foodborne trematodiases, lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis, soil-transmitted helminthiasis); and (iv) viruses (dengue and chikungunya, rabies).

The World Health Organization recognizes the seventeen diseases below as neglected tropical diseases.[11]

Buruli ulcer[edit]

Buruli ulcer is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium ulcerans.[12] It is related to the family of organisms that cause tuberculosis and leprosy, but Mycobacterium ulcerans produces a toxin, mycolactone, that destroys tissue.[12] The prevalence of Buruli ulcer is unknown.[9] The risk of mortality is low, although secondary infections can be lethal.[13] Morbidity takes the form of deformity, disability, and skin lesions, which can be prevented through early treatment and treated with antibiotics and surgery.[13] It is found in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.[14] The symptoms are skin swellings and lesions.[13]

Chagas disease[edit]

Chagas disease is also known as American trypanosomiasis. There are approximately 15 million people infected with Chagas Disease.[9] The chance of morbidity is higher for immuno-compromised individuals, children, and elderly, but very low if treated early.[15] Chagas disease does not kill victims rapidly, instead causing years of debilitating chronic symptoms. It is caused by a vector-borne[16] protozoa[15] and spread by contact with Trypanosoma cruzi infected feces of the triatomine (assassin) bug. The protozoan can enter the body via the bug's bite, skin breaks, or mucous membranes. Infection can result from eating infected food and coming into contact with contaminated bodily fluids.[15] Chagas disease can be prevented by avoiding insect bites through insecticide spraying, home improvement, bed nets, hygienic food, medical care, laboratory practices, and testing.[15] It can be treated etiologically or with drugs, although the drugs used to treat Chagas disease have severe side effects[15] There are two phases of Chagas disease. The acute phase is usually asymptomatic. The first symptoms are usually skin chancres, unilateral purplish orbital oedema, local lymphoadenopathies, and fever accompanied by a variety of other symptoms depending on infection site.[15] The chronic phase occurs in 30 percent of total infections[9] and can take three forms, which are asymptomatic (most prevalent), cardiac, and digestive lesions.[15] It can be diagnosed through a serological test, although the test is not very accurate.[9]

Dengue and chikungunya fever[edit]

There are 50–100 million dengue virus infections annually.[17] Dengue fever is usually not fatal, but infection with one of four serotypes can increase later susceptibility to other serotypes, resulting in a potentially fatal disease called severe dengue.[17] Dengue fever is caused by a flavivirus, and is spread mostly by the bite of the A. Aegypti mosquito.[17] No treatment for either dengue or severe dengue exists beyond palliative care.[17] The symptoms are high fever and flu-like symptoms.[17] It is found in Asia, Latin America, and Northern Australia.[17]

Chikungunya is an arboviral disease transmitted by A. albopictus and A. aegypti mosquitoes. The virus was first isolated form an outbreak in Tanzania in 1952.[18] Chikungunya virus is a member of the genus Alphavirus and family Togaviridae.[18] The word chikungunya is from the Makonde which means "that which bends up," and this refers to the effect of the debilitating joint pain on the patient.[18] The symptoms can be confused with dengue and include fever, rash, joint pain, and swelling. The disease mainly occurs in Africa and Asia.[19]


Dracunculiasis is also known as Guinea-worm disease. There were 126 cases of dracunculiasis in 2014, a decrease from 542 cases in 2012,[20] and a substantial decrease from 3,500,000 cases in 1986.[21] It is not fatal, but can cause months of inactivity.[20] It is caused by drinking water contaminated by water fleas infected with guinea-worm larvae.[20] It is usually treated by World Health Organization volunteers who clean and bandage wounds caused by worms and return daily to pull the worm out a few more inches.[20] Approximately one year after infection, a painful blister forms and one or more worm emerges. Worms can be up to one meter long.[20] Dracunculiasis is preventable by water filtration, immediate case identification to prevent spread of disease, health education, and treating ponds with larvicide. An eradication program has been able to reduce prevalence.[20] As of 2014, the four endemic countries are Chad, Ethiopia, Mali, and South Sudan.[20]


The rates of echinococcosis is higher in rural areas, and there are more than one million people infected currently.[22] Untreated alveolar echinococcosis is fatal.[23] It is caused by ingesting parasites in animal feces.[24] Surgery and drugs can both be used to treat echinococcosis.[23] There are two versions of the disease: cystic and alveolar. Both versions involve an asymptomatic incubation period of several years. In the cystic version, liver cysts cause abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting while cysts in the lungs cause chronic cough, chest pain, and shortness of breath. In alveolar echinococcosis, a primary cyst develops, usually in the liver, in addition to weight loss, abdominal pain, general feeling of ill health, and signs of liver failure.[23] It can be prevented by deworming dogs, sanitation, proper disposal of animal feces, health education, and livestock vaccination.[25] Cystic echinococcosis is found in the eastern portion of the Mediterranean region, northern Africa, southern and eastern Europe, the southern portion of South America, and central Asia. Alveolar echinococcosis is found in western and northern China, Russia, Europe, and northern North America.[24] It can be diagnosed through imaging techniques and serological tests.[25]

Endemic treponematoses (Yaws)[edit]

There are limited data available on the prevalence of yaws, although it primarily affects children.[26] The mortality risk is very low, but the disease causes disfigurement and disability if untreated.[26] It is a chronic bacterial infection, transmitted by skin contact, and caused by treponemes.[26] It is treated with antibiotics.[26] It can be prevented through improved hygiene and sanitation.[26] The most common symptom is skin lesions.[26] It is most prevalent in the warm, moist, tropical regions of the Americas, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific.[26]

Foodborne trematodiases[edit]

The foodborne trematode infections include clonorchiasis, opisthorchiasis, fascioliasis, and paragonimiasis. These infections are all zoonotic, primarily affecting domestic or wild animals, but also transmitted to humans. They are acquired by eating food, such as raw fish, contaminated with the larval stages of the parasites. At least 40 million people are thought to be infected.[27]

Human African trypanosomiasis[edit]

African trypanosomiasis is also known as African sleeping sickness. There are fewer than 10,000 cases currently.[28] The disease is always fatal if untreated. Human African trypanosomiasis is vector-borne,[16] and spread through the bite of the tsetse fly. The current forms of treatment are highly toxic and ineffective as resistance is spreading. The most common symptoms are fever, headache, lymphadenopathy, nocturnal sleeping pattern, personality changes, cognitive decline, and coma. It is diagnosed through an inexpensive serological test.


The three forms of leishmaniasis are visceral (Kala-azar), cutaneous, and mucocutaneous.[29] There are an estimated 12 million people infected.[9] It is fatal if untreated and 20,000 deaths from visceral leishmaniasis occur annually.[30] It is a vector-borne disease[16] that is caused by the bite of sandflies. The only method of prevention is a vaccine that is under development and preventing sandfly bites. It can be treated with expensive medications.[31] At least 90 percent of visceral leishmaniasis occurs in Bangladesh, Brazil, Ethiopia, India, South Sudan, and Sudan. Cutaneous leishmaniasis occurs in Afghanistan, Algeria, Brazil, Colombia, Iran, Pakistan, Peru, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Around 90 percent of mucocutaneous leishmaniasis occurs in Bolivia, Brazil, and Peru.[29] Diagnosis can by made by identifying clinical signs, serological tests, or parasitological tests.[32]


There were 189,018 known cases of leprosy in March 2013, and 232,857 new cases were diagnosed in 2012.[33] There are one to two million individuals currently disabled or disfigured due to past or present leprosy.[34] Leprosy causes disfigurement and physical disabilities if untreated. It is curable if treated early.[34] It is caused by bacteria and transmitted through droplets from the mouth and nose of infected individuals.[35] Treatment requires multidrug therapy.[33] The BCG vaccine has some preventative effect against leprosy. Leprosy has a 5–20 year incubation period, and the symptoms are damage to the skin, nerves, eyes, and limbs.[35] It is found in Angola, Brazil, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, India, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nepal, Tanzania.[33]

Lymphatic filariasis[edit]

Lymphatic filariasis is also known as elephantiasis. There are approximately 120 million individuals infected[36] and 40 million with deformities.[10] It is rarely fatal.[37] Lymphatic filariasis has lifelong implications, such as lymphoedema of the limbs, genital disease, and painful recurrent attacks. Most people are asymptomatic, but have lymphatic damage. Up to of 40 percent of infected individuals have kidney damage.[38] It is a vector-borne disease,[16] caused by nematode worms that are transmitted by mosquitoes.[38] It can be treated with cost-effective antihelminthic treatments,[39] and washing skin can slow or even reverse damage.[40] It is diagnosed with a finger-prick blood test.[37] Approximately two-thirds of cases are in Southwest Asia and one-third in Africa.[36]


Onchocerciasis is also known as "river blindness". There are 37 million people infected[9] and prevalence is higher in rural areas.[41] It causes blindness, skin rashes, lesions, intense itching, and skin depigmentation.[42] It is a vector-borne[16] disease, caused by filarial worm infected blackflies.[42] It can be treated with ivermectin.[42] It can be prevented by insecticide spraying or preventative dosing with ivermectin.[41] The symptoms are generally itching and skin lesions.[41] Over 99 percent of cases are in Sub-saharan Africa.[41]


There are two forms of rabies: furious and paralytic. There are 60,000 deaths from rabies annually.[43] There is a higher prevalence in rural areas and it disproportionately affects children.[44] Rabies is usually fatal after symptoms develop.[45] It is caused by a lyssavirus transmitted through wounds or bites from infected animals.[44] It can be prevented in dogs by vaccination,[44] and cleaning and disinfecting bite wounds (post-exposure prophylaxis).[45] The first symptoms are fever and pain near the infection site which occur after a one to three month incubation period. Furious (more common type) rabies causes hyperactivity, hydrophobia, aerophobia, and death by cardio-respiratory arrest occurs within days. Paralytic rabies causes a slow progression from paralysis to coma to death.[44] Rabies is undiagnosable before symptoms develop. It can be detected through tissue testing after symptoms develop.[44] It is mostly found in Asia and Africa.[43]


11-year-old boy with ascites and portal hypertension due to schistosomiasis (Agusan del Sur, Philippines)
Main article: Schistosomiasis

There are over 200 million cases of schistosomiasis.[10] The disease can be fatal by causing bladder cancer and haematemesis.[10] It causes bladder fibrosis, liver fibrosis, portal hypertension, and cervical lesions (which increase HIV susceptibility for women).[10] Schistosoma species have a complex life cycle that alternates between humans and freshwater snails. Infection occurs when skin comes into contact with contaminated freshwater in which the snail that carry the parasite are living. The freshwater becomes contaminated by Schistosoma eggs when infected people urinate or defecate in the water. The eggs hatch, and if the appropriate snail is present, the parasite infect, develop and multiply in the snail. The parasite leaves the snail and enters the water where it can survive for about 48 hours. The parasite penetrates the skin on contact with human skin. This usually occurs when a person is swimming, bathing or washing. Over several weeks, the parasites migrate through the host tissue and develop into adult worms inside the blood vessels. Once the worms are mature they mate and produce eggs. Some of the eggs travel to the bladder or intestine and are passed into the urine and stool. Symptoms for schistosomiasis not caused by the worms but by the body’s reaction the eggs. The eggs that do not pass out of the body can become lodged in the intestine or bladder, causing inflammation or scarring. Children who are repeatedly infected can develop anemia, malnutrition and learning difficulties. [46] The symptoms are usually haematuria, bladder obstruction, renal failure, bladder cancer, periportal fibrosis, portal hypertension, ascites, varices[disambiguation needed].[9] Inexpensive praziquantel can be used to treat individuals with schistosomiasis, but cannot prevent reinfection. The cost of prevention is US$0.32 per child per year.[10] Mass deworming treatment with praziquantel, better access to safe water, sanitation, health education can all be used to prevent schistosomiasis.[9] Vaccines are under development. It can be diagnosed through a serological test, but it often produces false negatives.[10] Approximately 85 percent of cases are in sub-Saharan Africa.[10]

Soil-transmitted helminthiasis[edit]

Adult ascaris worms being removed from the bile duct of a patient in South Africa

The three major worm species responsible for soil-transmitted helminthiasis are Ascaris (roundworms), Trichuris (whipworm), the hookworms Necator americanus and Ancylostoma duodenale, and Strongyloides stercoralis.[47] There are 1.5 billion currently infected.[47] The mortality risk is very low.[9] The severity of symptoms depends on the number of worms in the body, but can include intestinal problems, lack of energy, and compromised physical and cognitive development.[47] Parasitic worms are generally transmitted via exposure to infected human feces and soil which are spread in the environment, for example, due to open defecation.[47] The most common symptoms are anemia, stunted growth, decreased physical fitness, decreased school performance and attendance.[9] The most common treatment is medicine.[47] It can be prevented through hygienically prepared food and clean water, improved sanitation, periodic deworming, and health education.[47] The World Health Organisation recommends mass deworming without prior diagnosis.[47] Soil-transmitted heminthiasis occurs in sub-Saharan Africa, the Americas, China, and east Asia.[47]


Cysticercosis is a tapeworm larvae infection, whilst taeniasis is an adult tapeworm infection.[48] Both belong to the group of helminthiasis. Cysticercosis is the most common preventable cause of epilepsy in the developing world.[49] Taeniasis is not fatal, although cysticercosis can cause epilepsy and neurocystocercosis can be fatal.[49][50] Taeniasis is usually contracted after eating undercooked contaminated pork. Cysticercosis occurs after ingestion of contaminated food, water, or soil.[48] Taeniasis has mild symptoms, including abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, or constipation. Cysticercosis involves cysts and lesions that can cause headaches, blindness, seizures, hydrocephalus, meningitis, and dementia.[50] Drugs are used to treat both diseases.[50] Infection can be prevented through stricter meat-inspection standards, livestock confinement, improved hygiene and sanitation, health education, safe meat preparation, and identifying and treating human and pig carriers.[51] It is found in Asia, Africa, Latin America, particularly on farms in which pigs are exposed to human excrement.[49]


There are 21.4 million people infected with trachoma, of whom 2.2 million are partially blind and 1.2 million are blind. The disease disproportionately affects women and children.[52] The mortality risk is very low, although multiple re-infections eventually lead to blindness.[9][52] It is caused by a micro-organism that spreads through eye discharges (on hands, cloth, etc.) and by "eye-seeking flies".[52] It is treated with antibiotics. The only known prevention method is interpersonal hygiene. The symptoms are internally scarred eyelids, followed by eyelids turning inward.[52] It is found in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, Middle East, and Australia.[52]

Health impact[edit]

Deworming treatments in those who are infected are correlated with healthy weight gain since worms are often partially responsible for malnutrition.[10][53][needs update] Whether or not mass deworming campaigns improve long term outcomes is unclear.[53] This included a lack of definite proof of sustained health benefits with respect to nutritional status, haemoglobin in blood and levels of school attendance or performance.[53] To achieve health gains in the longer term, improvements in sanitation and hygiene bevaviours are also required, together with deworming treatments.

Inclusion of NTDs into initiatives for malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis may have advantages given the strong link between these diseases and NTDs.[54] This is because there is a correlation between high rates of NTDs and high rates of non-communicable chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. There is a debilitating effect of NTDs and their long term toll on health.[54]

Economic impact[edit]

The low cost of treatment for NTDs can be attributed to the large scale of the programs, free provision of drugs by pharmaceutical companies, delivery modes of drugs, and the un-paid volunteers who distribute the drugs.[55] The economic burden of NTDs is undervalued and therefore the corresponding economic impact and cost-effectiveness of decreased prevalence of NTDs is underestimated.[55] The investment return on measures to control neglected tropical diseases is estimated to be between 14–30 percent, depending on the disease and region.[56] The long term benefits of deworming include a decrease in school absenteeism by 25 percent, and an increase in adult earnings by 20 percent.[57]

The cost of treatment of some of these diseases, however, such as Buruli ulcer, can amount to over twice the yearly income of an average household in the lowest income quartile, while for the highest income quartile, the burden is slightly less than the average household income. These enormous financial costs often cause deferral of treatment and financial ruin, but there is inequality between the wealthy and poor in terms of economic burden. These diseases also cost the government in terms of health care and lost worker productivity through morbidity and shortened life spans.In Kenya, for example, deworming is estimated to increase average adult income by 40 percent, which is a benefit-to-cost ratio of 100. Each untreated case of Trachoma is estimated to cost US$118 in lost productivity. Each case of schistosomiasis causes a loss of 45.4 days of work per year. Most of the diseases cost the economies of various developing countries millions of dollars. Large scale prevention campaigns are predicted to increase agricultural output and education levels.[55]

Social impact[edit]

Several NTDs, such as leprosy, cause severe deformities that result in social stigma. Lymphatic filariasis, for example, causes severe deformities that can result in denial of marriage and inability to work.[10] Studies in Ghana and Sri Lanka have demonstrated that support groups for patients with lymphatic filariasis can increase participants' self-esteem, quality of life, and social relations through social support and providing practical advice on how to manage their illness.[58] A 2012 review found that infection with a neglect tropical disease predisposes individuals to poor mental health.[59] This is partially due to the social stigma that surround NTDs, but is also likely caused by the subsequent lack of access to health and social services. Overall, being a member of the infected community was found to cut individuals off from multiple aspects of society via civic rights, educational opportunities, and employment. The authors suggest that more research be directed into the psychological aspects of neglected tropical diseases in order to fully untangle their co-effects.[59]

Deworming treatment is correlated with increased school attendance.[10]

The impact of NTDs is tied to gender in some situations. NTDs disproportionately affect females. This is especially true in the cases of schistosomiasis, dengue, hookworm, and Chagas disease. There is also the added risk of hookworm infection during pregnancy and the potential to transfer diseases such as Chagas during pregnancy.[60] A study in Uganda found that women were more easily able to obtain treatment because they had fewer occupational responsibilities than men and were more trusting of treatment, but ignorance of the effects of medicines on pregnant women prevented adequate care. The paper concludes that gender should be considered when designing treatment programs.[60]

Reasons for neglect[edit]

This group of diseases has been overlooked because they mainly affect the poorest countries of the developing world and because of recent emphasis on decreasing the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.[9] Far more resources are given to the "big three" diseases, HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis, because of their higher mortality and public awareness rates.[10] The importance of neglected tropical diseases has been underestimated since many are asymptomatic and have long incubation periods. The connection between a death and a neglected tropical disease that has been latent for a long period of time is not often realized.[10] Additionally, neglected tropical diseases are often associated with some kind of social stigma, making their treatment more complex. Disease control is greatly affected by this stigma, as it decreases help-seeking and treatment adherence.[61]

One reason for neglect for these disease is that they are not commercial and consequently patents and profit play no role in stimulating innovation. Like all non-commercial areas, these diseases are the responsibility of governments and philanthropy (including industry philanthropy).[62]

A review of public and private initiatives found that of the 1393 new chemical products that were marketed in the period of 1975 and 1999, just 16 related to tropical diseases and tuberculosis. The same review additionally found that there was a 13-fold greater chance of a drug entering the marking being for central-nervous-system disorders and cancer than an NTD.[63]

Currently, the pharmaceutical industry views research and development as highly risky. For this reason, resources are not often put into the field of NTDs (as diseases of the poor) and new chemical products are often expensive. While often developed countries will rely on government-run and private partnerships to fund such projects, developing nations frequently have significantly lower per head per annum spending on these diseases.[63] Due to lack of incentive in the pharmaceutical industry, successful NTD treatment programs have often relied on the donation format. The Mectizan Donation Program has donated over 1800 million tablets of ivermectin.[64]

Developed nations[edit]

In developed nations, neglected tropical disease also pose a threat to human health. In the United States alone, there are at least 12 million people suffering from these neglected parasitic infections.[65] They make up a hidden disease burden among the poorest of wealthy societies. [66] Dr. Peter Hotez points out that in developed nations, lack of knowledge in the healthcare industry and few conclusive diagnostic tests perpetuate the neglect of this group of diseases.[67]

In the United States, high rates of parasitic infection can be found to be distributed along geographic, racial, and socio-economic lines. Within the African-American community, there may be up to 2.8 million cases of toxocariasis. Rates of toxocariasis, trichomoniasis, and other neglected infections occur in the United States at the same rate as Nigeria.[66] Within the Hispanic community, neglected infections are concentrated near the US-Mexico border. Vector-born illnesses are especially high, with some rates approaching those of Latin America[66] However, in the developed world, diseases that are associated with poverty are often not addressed as comprehensively as they should be. This may be due to lack of economic incentive and public policy failings.[66]

In developed nations such as the United States, a lack of awareness prevents effective policy generation and leaves health care services unequipped to address the issue. Additionally, there is little effort put into taking and maintaining large data sets on neglected disease in the United States. The first summit on the issue was held by the Adler Institute on Social Exclusion in the United States in 2009.[66]


Prevention and eradication are important because "of the appalling stigma, disfigurement, blindness and disabilities caused by NTDs."[10] The possibility of eliminating or eradicating dracunculiasis, leprosy, lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, trachoma, sleeping sickness, visceral leishmaniasis, and canine rabies within the next ten years was the principal aim of the London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases, which is a collaborative effort involving the WHO, the World Bank, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world's 13 leading pharmaceutical companies, and government representatives from US, UK, United Arab Emirate, Bangladesh, Brazil, Mozambique and Tanzania. It was launched in January 2012.[54]

Policy initiatives[edit]

There are many prevention and eradication campaigns funded for example by the World Health Organization, US Agency for International Development, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, UK Department for International Development.[10]

WHO Roadmap of 2012[edit]

WHO published in 2012 the NTD "roadmap" which contains milestones for 2015 and 2020 and which specifies targets for eradication, elimination, and intensified control of the different NTDs.[68] For example:

  • NTDs planned to be eradicated: dracunculiasis (by the year 2015), endemic treponematoses (yaws) (by 2020)
  • NTDs planned to be eliminated globally by 2020: blinding trachoma, leprosy, human African trypanosomiasis, lymphatic filariasis
  • NTDs planned to be eliminated in certain regions: rabies (by 2015 in Latin America, by 2020 in Southeast Asia and western Pacific regions), chagas disease (transmission through blood transfusion by 2015, intra-domiciliary transmission by 2020 in the region of the Americas), visceral leishmaniasis (by 2020 in the Indian subcontinent), oncocerciasis (by 2015 in Latin America), schistosomiasis (by 2015 in eastern Mediterranean region, Caribbean, Indonesia and the Mekong River basin, by 2020 in the region of the Americas and western Pacific region)
  • NTDs planned to be eliminated in certain countries: human African trypanosomiasis (by 2015 in 80 percent of areas in which it occurs), oncocerciasis (by 2015 in Yemen, by 2020 in selected countries in Africa), schistosomiasis (by 2020 in selected countries in Africa)
  • Intensified control with specific targets for the years 2015 and 2020 are provided for these NTDs: dengue, buruli ulcer, cutaneous leishmaniasis, taeniasis/cysticercosis and echinococcosis/hydatidosis, foodborne tremadode infections, soil-transmitted helmintheases


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration priority review voucher is an incentive for companies to invest in new drugs and vaccines for tropical diseases. A provision of the Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act (HR 3580) awards a transferable "priority review voucher" to any company that obtains approval for a treatment for one of the listed diseases. The voucher can later be used to accelerate review of an unrelated drug. This program is for all tropical diseases and includes medicines for malaria and tuberculosis. The first voucher given was for Coartem, a malaria treatment.[69] It does not use or define the term "neglected" though most of the diseases listed are often included on lists of neglected diseases.

The prize was proposed by Duke University faculty Henry Grabowski, Jeffrey Moe, and David Ridley in their 2006 Health Affairs paper: "Developing Drugs for Developing Countries."[70] In 2007 United States Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) sponsored an amendment to the Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act of 2007. President George W. Bush signed the bill in September 2007.

Integration with WASH programs[edit]

Water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) interventions are essential in preventing many NTDs, for example soil-transmitted helminthiasis.[71] Mass drug administrations alone will not protect people from re-infection. A more holistic and integrated approach to NTDs and WASH efforts will benefit both sectors along with the communities they are aiming to serve. This is especially true in areas that are endemic with more than one NTD.[71]

In August 2015 the World Health Organization unveiled a global strategy and action plan to integrate WASH with other public health interventions in order to accelerate elimination of NTDs.[72] The plan aims to intensify control or eliminate certain NTDs in specific regions by 2020 and refers to the NTD "roadmap" milestones from 2012 that include for example eradication of dracunculiasis by 2015 and of yaws by 2020, elimination of trachoma and lymphatic filariasis as public health problems by 2020, intensified control of dengue, schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiases.[67]

A closer collaboration between WASH and NTD programmes can lead to synergies. They can be achieved through collaborative planning, delivery and evaluation of programmes, strengthening and sharing of evidence, and using monitoring tools to improve the equity of health services.[73]

Reasons why WASH plays an important role in NTD prevention and patient care include:[67]

  • NTDs affect more than one billion people in 149 countries. They occur mainly in regions with a lack of basic sanitation. About 2.4 billion people worldwide do not have adequate sanitation facilities. 663 million do not have access to improved drinking water sources.[74]
  • One leading cause of preventable blindness is trachoma. The bacterial infection is transmitted through contact with eye-seeking flies, fingers, and fomites. Prevention components are facial cleanliness which requires water for face washing and environmental improvement which includes safe disposal of excreta to reduce fly populations.[75]
  • Improved sanitation prevents soil-transmitted helminthiases. It impedes fecal pathogens such as intestinal worm eggs from contaminating the environment and infecting people through contaminated food, water, dirty hands, and direct skin contact with the soil.[76]
  • Improved sanitation and water management can contribute to reduce proliferation of mosquitoes that transmit diseases, such as lymphatic filariasis, dengue and chikungunya. Breeding of the Culex mosquito which transmits filarial parasites is facilitated through poorly constructed latrines. Breeding of the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes which transmit dengue and chikungunya can be prevented through safe storage of water.[77]
  • Feces and urine which contain worm eggs can contaminate surface water and lead to transmission of schistosomiasis. This can be prevented through improved sanitation. Not only human but also animal (cow, buffalo) urine or feces can transmit some schistosome species. Therefore, it is important to protect freshwater from animals and animal waste.[78]
  • Treatment of many NTDs require clean water and hygienic condition for healthcare facilities and households. For guinea worm, Buruli ulcer, or cutaneous leishmaniasis, wound management is needed to speed up healing and reduce disability. Lymphatic filariasis causes chronic disabilities. People who suffer from this disease need to maintain rigorous personal hygiene with water and soap to prevent secondary infections.[79]
  • NTDs that lead to permanent disabilities make tasks such as carrying water long distances or accessing toilets difficult. However, people affected by these diseases often face stigma and can be excluded from accessing water and sanitation facilities. This increases their risk of poverty and severe illness. Clean water and soap are essential for these groups to maintain personal hygiene and dignity. Therefore, additional efforts to reduce stigma and exclusion are needed. In this manner, WASH can improve quality of life of people affected by NTDs.[80]
  • In a meta-analysis safe water was associated with significantly reduced odds of Schistosoma infection, and adequate sanitation was associated with significantly lower odds of infection with both S. mansoni and S. haematobium.[81]
  • A systematic review and meta-analysis showed that better hygiene in children is associated with lower odds of trachoma. Access to sanitation was associated with 15 percent lower odds of active trachoma and 33 percent lower odds of C. trachomatis infection of the eyes.[82]
  • Another systematic review and meta-analysis found a correlation between WASH access and practices and lower odds of soil-transmitted helminthiasis infections by 33 to 77 percent. Persons who washed their hands after defecating were less than half as likely to be infected as those who did not.[83] Traditionally, preventive chemotherapy is used as a measure of control, although this measure does not stop the transmission cycle and cannot prevent reinfection. In contrast, improved sanitation can.[84]

Pharmaceutical market and initiatives[edit]

Biotechnology companies in the developing world have targeted neglected tropical diseases due to need to improve global health.[85]

Mass drug administration is considered a possible method for eradication, especially for lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, and trachoma, although drug resistance is a potential problem.[86] According to Fenwick, Pfizer donated 70 million doses of drugs in 2011 to eliminate trachoma through the International Trachoma Initiative.[10] Merck has helped The African Programme for the Control of Onchocerciasis (APOC) and Oncho Elimination Programme for the Americas to greatly diminished the impact of Onchocerciasis by donating ivermectin.[10] Merck KGaA pledged to give 200 million tablets of praziquantel over 10 years, the only cure for schistosomiasis.[87] GlaxoSmithKline has donated two billion tablets of medicine for lymphatic filariasis and pledged 400 million deworming tablets per year for five years in 2010. Johnson & Johnson has pledged 200 million deworming tablets per year.[10] Novartis has pledged leprosy treatment, EISAI pledged two billion tablets to help treat lymphatic filariasis.[10]

NGO initiatives[edit]

There are currently only two donor-funded non-governmental organizations that focus exclusively on NTDs:[88] the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative and Deworm the World. Despite under-funding, many neglected diseases are cost-effective to treat and prevent. The cost of treating a child for infection of soil transmitted helminths and schistosomes (some of the main causes of neglected diseases), is less than US$0.50 per year, when administered as part of school-based mass deworming by Deworm the World. This programme is recommended by Giving What We Can and the Copenhagen Consensus Centre as one of the most efficient and cost-effective solutions. The efforts of Schistosomiasis Control Initiative to combat neglected diseases include the use of rapid impact packages: supplying schools with packages including four or five drugs, and training teachers in how to administer them.

Public-private initiatives[edit]

An alternative model to the profit-driven drug development emerged in the years 2000 to provide an answer to the needs of these neglected patients. Product development partnerships (PDPs) aim at implementing and accelerating the research and development (R&D) of safe and effective health tools (diagnostics, vaccines, drugs) to notably combat diseases that are neglected.[89] Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) is one of these PDPs that has already developed new treatments for NTDs[90]

In 2013, the Government of Japan, five Japanese pharmaceutical companies, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the UNDP established a new public-private partnership, Global Health Innovative Technology Fund. They pledged over US$100 million to the fund over five years, to be awarded as grants to R&D partnerships across sectors in Japan and elsewhere, working to develop new drugs and vaccines for 17 neglected diseases, in addition to HIV, malaria and tuberculosis.[91][92][93] Affordability of the resulting drugs and vaccines is one of the key criteria for grant awards.[91]

WIPO Re:Search was established in 2011 by the World Intellectual Property Organization in collaboration with BIO Ventures for Global Health (BVGH) and with the active participation of leading pharmaceutical companies and other private and public sector research organizations. It allows organizations to share their intellectual property, compounds, expertise, facilities and know-how royalty-free with qualified researchers worldwide working on new solutions for NTDs, malaria and tuberculosis.[94][95]


An open-access journal dedicated to neglected tropical diseases called PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases first began publication in 2007. There is also an international group dedicated to decreasing the prevalence of neglected tropical diseases called the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases.[9]


The six most common NTDs include soil-transmitted helminths (STHs)—specifically roundworm (Ascaris lumbricoides), whipworm (Trichuris trichiura) and hookworms (Necator americanus and Ancylostoma duodenale)—schistosomiasis, trachoma, and lymphatic filariasis (LF).[71] These diseases affect one-sixth of the world's population with 90 percent of the disease burden occurring in sub-Saharan Africa.[71]

Information on the frequency of neglected tropical diseases is of low quality.[96] It is currently difficult to summarize all of the information on this family of diseases. One effort to do so is the Global Burden of Disease framework. It aims to create a standardized method of measurement.[96] The principle components of the approach involve 1) the measuring of premature mortality as well as disability, 2) the standardized usage of DALYs (disability-adjusted life years), and 3) wide spread inclusion of diseases and injury causes with the estimation of missing data.[96] However, the DALY has been criticized as a 'systematic undervaluation' of disease burden.[97] King asserts that the DALY emphasizes the individual too much, while ignoring the effects of the ecology of the disease. In order for the measure to become more valid, it may gave to take the context of poverty more into account. King also emphasizes that DALYs may not capture the non-linear effects of poverty on cost-utility analysis of disease control.[97] In the future, new measures may be developed to better capture the true effects of these disease while still created a standardized system.

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External links[edit]