Thursday, January 17, 2013

More Funding Needed For Tropical Diseases, WHO Says

Tropical diseases that were once overlooked, are now receiving more attention from pharmaceutical companies and the government, but also require more funding and innovation.
Diseases that are uncommon in the U.S. such as:
  • lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis)
  • onchocerciasis (river blindness)
  • schistosomiasis (a parasite)
  • soil-transmitted helminthiasis (intestinal worms)
...can cause many deaths and complicate lives in underdeveloped nations.

In a new report, the WHO (World Health Organization) announces that they have seen groundbreaking progress in regards to these tropical disease, thanks to an international strategy that includes a regular supply of inexpensive, quality-assured medicines, and support from international partners.

The new strategies have brought us closer to the complete removal of many of these illnesses that are particularly devastating in the world's poorest regions.

Reports Show Progress As Well As New Goals

The report reveals significant progress in combating, terminating and eradicating these neglected tropical diseases. Specifically, dracunculiasis (guinea worm disease) and yaws, are due for global eradication in 2015 and 2020 respectively.

In addition, there are six goals set for the removal of five diseases in 2015 and 10 more goals for nine diseases for 2020, either internationally, or in specific geographical regions.

Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO commented:

"With this new phase in the control of these diseases, we are moving ahead towards achieving universal health coverage with essential interventions. The challenge now is to strengthen capacity of national disease programs in endemic countries and streamline supply chains to get the drugs to the people who need them, when they need them."

Medicine donations and extra funding by several global partners have aided in swift action and measures that are now having a considerable impact in affected countries with a broader scale of precautionary chemotherapy interventions. Of note is the universal delivery of single-dose, safe, quality medications as preventive treatments against five helminthiases and trachoma (chlamydial infection).

In 2010, 711 million people had treatment for at least one of the four diseases covered by preventive chemotherapy.

Coverage Planned to Increase

The WHO believes that treatment for schistosomiasis (bilharzia) will expand to 235 million people over the next five years. This will be achieved through better availability of treatments with donated medicines, as well as organized distribution on regional levels.

Dr. Chan adds:

"The prospects for success have never been so strong. "Many millions of people are being freed from the misery and disability that have kept populations mired in poverty, generation after generation, for centuries."

Other report highlights include:
  • Elimination of guinea worm. There has been a decrease in the number cases, with just 521 between January and September 2012, compared to 1006 for the same time period in 2011. Also human African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) is down to fewer than 7,000 in 2011, from a high of 30,000 cases at the beginning of this century.
  • Rabies has been removed from many countries and the WHO believes this disease will be eradicated on a regional basis by 2020. Antibiotics are now available for buruli ulcer, a chronic and severely disabling skin condition.r
  • In 2012, dengue was the fastest spreading vector-bone viral disease, with the potential to become an epidemic. The WHO suggested an immediate change in approach and put into effect sustainable preventive care.
The report also touches on some challenges that are still present at country levels. It stresses the need for national disease control plans to implement organization, integration, and coordination. It also recommends the use of other sectors like education, agriculture and veterinary public health, as well as strengthening human resources.

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