GM mosquitos and other NTD links of the week

In the first of a regular feature, here’s a round up of NTD news from around the world.

News just in: researchers have genetically modified male mosquitos so that their offspring die at the larval stage. The BBC website article explains that this method has been tried before, but fails if the male GM mosquitos can’t compete with the wild ones. The new strain aren’t quite alpha male material, but they hope it will be close enough.

The Daily Mail report on the case of a woman whose uncontrollable libido turned out to be a symptom of rabies. Ignoring the picture in the article, this is a tragic case. Rabies can be prevented if a vaccine is given after infection, but before symptoms occur. Once symptoms appear, it is too late – only six people are thought to have survived a rabies infection, and these numbers are open to dispute.

Chagas disease (trypanosomiasis) may be more common in Texas than previously thought. The disease is a parasite, carried by “kissing bugs“. It is widespread in many parts of South and Central America, but seems to be creeping its way over the Mexican border.

And finally, a few weeks ago the Guardian published this lovely interview with Jimmy Carter. The Carter Center, set up by the former US President and his wife after he was booted out of office after a single term, was instrumental in pioneering a campaign to eradicate guinea worm which means that last year, there were just 1800 infections worldwide. The campaign was based on education about sanitation, rather than expensive drugs, and means that guinea worm may be eradicated within a few years.

All news is good news for NTDs

The World Health Organisation (WHO) published its first annual update on neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) last week. Following on from the recognition the 2010 report  gained for the plight of NTDs, this recent delve into the revised facts and figures makes for optimistic reading.­

Since 2005 the pace of research on NTDs has escalated over 30-fold with 161 papers being published on the topic in 2010. Subsequently news coverage has grown from seven stories worldwide in 2005 to 209 in 2010. This awareness within the general public has intensified efforts from pharmaceutical companies and governments to develop and provide billions of free drugs to the poorest nations on earth.

The trends from the mishmash of data available point towards a far greater number of people getting access to the treatments they need and a decline in cases brought forward.

Click on the picture to view a slideshow of facts and figures from the 2011 WHO report

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Disproportionate NTD burden in South Asia

A map of South Asia

A study has found that there is a lack of Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) management in the South Asia, with only one country in the region reaching targets of eliminating soil-transmitted helminth infections.

The comprehensive review published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases recommends that all NTD intervention programs in eight South Asian countries need to be improved to reduce the problem, which affects billions of people. Continue reading