Research!America and Global Health Experts Focus on the Economic and Health Burden of Neglected Tropical Diseases in the U.S.
Leading researchers discuss emerging health threats at panel discussion
During a panel discussion today at Tulane University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, hosted by Research!America, several researchers and leading public health experts said the nation must increase public awareness and research to address the emergence of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in the U.S.
NTDs, commonly associated with the developing world, have recently been identified in many parts of the country including Louisiana. Factors such as increased globalization, trade, migration, urban sprawl or climate change have been cited as potential underlying causes for the emergence of NTDs in the U.S. Chagas disease, which can cause heart failure, affects more than 300,000 people across the nation and costs the U.S. an estimated $1 billion in health care and lost productivity each year. Researchers at Loyola University New Orleans identified the first locally acquired case of Chagas disease in Louisiana. Continue reading →
Nearly 11% of the world’s population does not have access to clean drinking water. This represents a tremendous burden on global health, as almost 2 million children die from water-borne illnesses each year. Improvements in sanitation and the availability of clean water are essential to improve health around the world.
America has been a leader in clean water legislation and water-borne disease research. The late Paul G. Rogers, Research!America’s former chair, was a key leader in the passage of environmental legislation, including the Safe Drinking Water Act, during his tenure in Congress. Today, American investment in research is providing new therapies and prevention strategies for water-borne illnesses like schistosomiasis and Guinea worm disease, both neglected tropical diseases. Learn more about neglected tropical diseases here.
Here are some interesting facts for World Water Day 2013:
- Did you know that agriculture accounts for roughly 80%of the world’s water consumption?
- For every $1 invested in water and sanitation, an average of $4 is returned in increased productivity. (Source: WHO, Geneva, 2012: page 4)
- Every year, around 60 million children in the developing world are born into households without access to sanitation. (UN Water)
- 443 million school days are lost each year due to water-related diseases.
On January 23, the NIH announced that a Phase I clinical trial for a dengue vaccine candidate has yielded promising results. Dengue is a potentially lethal virus which causes severe fever, headaches, and rashes. WHO estimates that 50 to 100 million cases of dengue occur worldwide each year, including here in the U.S., and has recently warned of the possibility of a global dengue epidemic.
The results of the trial, in which 90% of participants developed some immunity to the virus, represent a significant breakthrough in the development of a safe and effective dengue vaccine. The vaccine costs just $1 to produce, making it cost effective and ideal for future distribution to developing countries. The vaccine will enter Phase II clinical trials shortly and is yet another example of the importance of federal funding to advance global health research.
On January 16, Uniting to Combat NTDs released “From Promises to Progress,” the first annual report on the London Declaration on NTDs. The report details the progress made by global partners that signed onto the London Declaration one year ago. Notable successes include leading pharmaceutical companies donating treatments for 100% of drug requests in endemic countries and the development of new NTD control plans in over forty countries. The past year has also seen regulatory approval for two new NTD diagnostics: a new test for lymphatic filariasis and the first rapid test for sleeping sickness developed by the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics.
Alongside this report, WHO also launched its second NTD report, “Sustaining the Drive to Overcome the Global Impact of Neglected Tropical Diseases.” The report targets two diseases for global eradication: guinea worm disease by 2015 and yaws by 2020. WHO also reports successes in preventive treatment, noting that 711 million people received treatment for at least one NTD in 2010 and projecting that these treatments will continue to reach more individuals in the future. However, there is still significant work to be done. Diseases like African sleeping sickness and leishmaniasis remain extremely difficult and costly to treat. There has been a 30-fold increase in dengue in the past 50 years and there is the potential for a global dengue epidemic, but we lack the appropriate tools to control and treat the virus. Whether it is scientific research to develop new drugs or operational research to develop the most effective control plans, additional investment in NTD research is crucial. Despite these challenges, Dr. Chan, Director-General of WHO, says that “the prospects for success have never been so strong.” The more we can raise awareness about these diseases that primarily affect the 1.4 billion people under poverty, the more we can do to mobilize resources for the global fight to combat NTDs. We want to make sure we continue turning prospects into actual success.
-Morgan McCloskey, global health intern
Each year on November 14, the International Diabetes Federation sponsors World Diabetes Day to raise awareness about the global burden of the disease. Although diabetes is historically associated with more affluent countries, diabetes rates are rising around the world. In 2000, about 170 million people had diabetes. Today, WHO estimates that diabetes affects more than 346 million people and about 70% of these individuals live in low- and middle-income countries. It is important to raise awareness of this growing burden and the links between diabetes and the infectious diseases that plague the developing world.
Infectious diseases like malaria, tuberculosis and neglected tropical diseases are endemic in several developing regions and affect millions of individuals every day. Any of these diseases can be devastating on their own, but recent studies point to the additional hazards of suffering from an infectious disease and a noncommunicable disease like diabetes. For example, individuals with diabetes who contract dengue fever have a much greater risk of developing severe (and potentially fatal) symptoms. Similarly, studies at the University of Texas have shown that individuals with diabetes have an increased risk of contracting tuberculosis.
Because dual infections are a significant health concern, more research is necessary to better understand the relationship between noncommunicable and infectious disease. Future research funding for either disease could have broad and unexpected applications. For example, diabetes research could yield additional insight into severe dengue fever or tuberculosis research might advance an understanding of diabetes. On World Diabetes Day, we must not only raise awareness of global burden of diabetes, but of the need to prioritize research to combat it and related infectious diseases.
-Morgan McCloskey, global health intern
On World Polio Day, established by Rotary International, the global health community comes together to celebrate successes and renew commitments to eliminate polio once and for all. Polio is a highly infectious disease and can cause irreversible paralysis, but thanks to past research efforts, there is a polio vaccine that can prevent the disease. This year, World Polio Day is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). Launched in 2008 by the World Health Organization, Rotary International, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the United Nations Children’s Fund, GPEI is playing a critical role in the final push to immunize children around the world and eradicate this paralyzing disease. Rotary International, the first organization to become involved in the fight against polio, will have donated over $1.2 billion by 2013 and more than one million Rotary members have donated their time and personal resources to the effort. WHO oversees strategic planning for the initiative and develops standard guidelines for implementing vaccination programs. The CDC helps to train public health volunteers and CDC experts plan, implement and evaluate polio vaccine campaigns. The CDC is also responsible for polio surveillance, research and monthly reports on the progress toward global polio eradication.
The outstanding efforts of these public health agencies and workers have reduced the global incidence of polio from an estimated 350,000 cases in 1988 to 171 cases in four countries in 2012. These public health heroes are exactly the kind of individuals that Public Health Thank You Day was created to honor. Celebrated each year on the Monday of Thanksgiving, Public Health Thank You Day is an opportunity to recognize public health agencies, professionals, and volunteers like those from Rotary International who work to protect the health of Americans and others around the world. To learn more, please visit http://www.researchamerica.org/ph_thank_you or like our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/PHTD1.
-Morgan McCloskey, global health intern