Why are tropical diseases tropical?

Where the strip should be

Click to enlarge - Edition #1 of One in Seven


Do NTDs ever get noticed by the general public?

Neglected tropical diseases rarely make it into public consciousness. HIV and malaria, two of the world’s biggest killers, have famous faces associated with them – sufferers such as Cheryl Cole, who contracted malaria last year, and campaigners such as Robbie Williams and Claudia Schiffer.

But occasionally, NTDs do appear in the media. See this vuvox to find out more.

Famous tropical disease sufferers

This Week in NTDs

This week in NTDs

This week AFP reported a breakthrough against meliodoisis, which could lead to a vaccine. Researchers at the University of Sheffield found a toxin which inhibits the development of the bacterium which causes the disease. The research was published in the 11th November edition of Science.

Forbes ran an article about how big pharmaceutical companies can take the neglected out of neglected tropical diseases. The article talks about the battle faced by organisations such as WHO in finding research funding for these diseases, and details what is being done by countries such as the UK, the US and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

A new method of treating malaria has been discovered, reports the Daily Mail. The study run by the Wellcome Trust was published in Nature last week. Dr. Gavin Wright, lead researcher stated that they had found the ‘achilles’ heel’ of Malaria, and that vaccine trials could begin within the next 2 or 3 years.

And finally this week the Kenyan government made an historical step in combatting native NTDs. Their five year national master-plan was launched on Thursday, and intends to address NTDs in remote parts of the country. The six major diseases combatted by the offensive are elephantiasis, bilharzia, trachoma, kalazar, intestinal worms and Hydatid disease.

Climate change to put 77 million more people at risk of fly disease

Up to 77million more people could be at an increased risk of contracting sleeping sickness as the tsetse fly, which transmits the disease, spreads due to global warming.

A picture of the tsetse fly which carries the parasites that cause sleeping sicknessA study looked at common strains of tsetse and the parasite it carries, which currently affects 36 sub-Saharan African countries. Results showed the sleeping sickness-carrying fly will spread into Southern Africa and surrounding areas as temperatures rise.

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Dengue in Indonesia, from the perspective of a Western sufferer

Dom Rowland emerged from the Indonesian jungle in mid-September this year. The expedition he was with, BRINCC, charted the course of the Barito river on the island of Borneo. They spent six months removed from civilization, recording the flora and fauna of the forests – they even discovered a new species of butterfly. But at the end of the expedition, about three days after leaving the jungle, one of the team, Andrea, fell ill.Barito river, Borneo by GothPhil/Flickr Continue reading

GM mosquitoes to fight dengue

They transmit disease to more than 700 million people and account for least 2 million deaths annually. The control of mosquitoes just got personal.

Mosquitoes have been responsible for more deaths worldwide than any other animal. They are the sole carriers of malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever, elephantiasis (lymphatic filiriasis) and chikungunya. There is no vaccine for any of these diseases.

For any disease, prevention is preferable to treatment. Vaccines for dengue and malaria are being developed but could be many years away. Effective mosquito control would decrease the burden of disease significantly and scientists have made huge advances in recent years.

Studies from Oxitec Ltd., a biotech company from Oxfordshire, have focussed on controlling the mosquito populations by genetically modifying the insects. Tactics to protect people in endemic areas include stopping mosquito bites using insecticides, net and repellents, developing preventative drugs and eradicating insects.

Diagram of how GM mosquitoes work

Breaking the cycle: how the process of releasing GM mosquitoes works

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