Plan to cut burden of tropical disease

Man with river blindness It is hoped to cut the number of cases of river blindness substantially

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Politicians, health experts and drug companies have agreed a plan to combat 10 neglected tropical diseases over the next decade.

They aim to eliminate diseases such as leprosy and Guinea worm and drastically reduce cases of others, including river blindness and schistosomiasis.

The diseases affect more than a billion people a year in the poorest countries of the world.

The plan involves a dramatic increase in drugs and treatment programmes.

Among those signed up are global health organisations, the UK and US Governments, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and pharmaceutical companies.

Dr Caroline Anstey of the World Bank said: "These are not neglected diseases - but rather diseases of neglected people."

Ancient diseases

Start Quote

I am confident almost all of these diseases can be eliminated or controlled by the end of this decade”

End Quote Dr Margaret Chan World Health Organization

Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the WHO, said these ancient diseases were already being "brought to their knees with stunning speed".

"With the boost to this momentum being made today, I am confident almost all of these diseases can be eliminated or controlled by the end of this decade."

The goal is to eliminate the following diseases by 2020: Guinea worm, leprosy, lymphatic filariasis, blinding trachoma and sleeping sickness.

In addition the goal is to reduce and control these diseases: schistosomiasis, river blindness, soil-transmitted helminthes, Chagas disease and visceral leishmaniasis.


Neglected Tropical Diseases is an umbrella term for a range of bacterial, parasitic and worm infections which flourish in areas with poor water quality and inadequate sanitation. They can cause disfigurement, disability, organ damage and sometimes death.

Thirteen pharmaceutical companies have agreed a dramatic increase in drug donation which will see 1.4 billion treatments each year being supplied.

In addition, several companies including GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and Sanofi have agreed to share compounds and knowledge in order to develop news medicines.

Sir Andrew Witty, CEO of GlaxoSmithKline, said: "No one company or organisation can do it alone.

"Today we pledge to work hand-in-hand to revolutionise the way we fight these diseases now and in the future."

The largest coordinated effort to combat Neglected Tropical Diseases was announced at an event at the Royal College of Physicians in London.

One key obstacle is the acute shortage of healthcare workers in many poor countries, who are crucial to ensure treatments reach those who need them.

Sir Andrew Witty, the chief executive of GlaxoSmithKline, outlines the tropical disease plan

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  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Healthier adults mean more babies being born, healthier children mean more future adults, whilst it is natural to want to help the individual we have to consider the environmental cost. Soon all the bush meat will be consumed & all the trees used as firewood for cooking, then what will these people do to survive? We have to put the interest of the planet above that of individuals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    There is no need to "encourage birth control" - it's already been shown that if you educate the women, the birth rate will fall regardless of other measures. Obviously both healthcare and sanitation are urgently needed, but birth control will look after itself if you get the other factors right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    The third world isn't suffering from a lack of population growth (far from it), but our efforts to wipe out the affects of one of 'the 4 horsemen' (Pestilence), only hastens on the likelihood of the eventual appearance of the other three (Death, Famine, and War). The world just can't support current birth rates & we should look to resolve that issue first.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Some of these "neglected" tropical diseases are not now as neglected as they were in the past. What about Tuberculosis? It kills nearly one and a half million people a year, but there is no "high level" conference in London, no new drugs, and of the British media only the BBC took any notice recently of totally drug resistant TB emerging in India.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Most of the comments above are very general & have little relevance to the specific diseases being targeted. Sure, clean water would improve health enormously, but isn't happening quickly enough. Of course the birth rate needs to come down.

    Attacking these specific diseases, which are often quite localised, can improve the quality of life for millions of sufferers much faster than grand plans.


Comments 5 of 16



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