Neglected Tropical Diseases

You would probably say that the common diseases and conditions that affect millions of people every year, most people think of heart disease, cancer, hepatitis – things that are common in our first world environment. What you might not realize is that there is a group of diseases called neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) that affect more than one billion people worldwide. When one sixth of the world’s population is suffering from one or more of these diseases and the average person can’t even name one, neglect proves an appropriate adjective. NTDs are debilitating, painful, and poverty-inducing. Can you name one?

Such diseases include Guinea worm, schistosomiasis, trachoma, soil-transmitted Helminths, and lymphatic filariasis.

Let’s look at how some of these diseases may affect an individual. In the regions where these diseases are most prevalent – South and Central America, Africa, and southern Asia – people usually work physically taxing manual labor jobs that require a high degree of mobility. If a parent were to contract lymphatic filariasis, better known as elephantiasis, their extremities would enlarge due to the inability to properly drain fluid. The swelling would eventually become so severe that physical labor would become impossible. With no income from a parent, the family is plunged deeper into poverty. This leads to decreased hygiene, nutrition, and education opportunities for the children. Meanwhile, it’s possible that their child has contracted hookworm, likely from walking barefoot through infested soil because the family cannot afford shoes. Hookworm causes malnutrition, leading to both physical and intellectual impairments, which subsequently affects the child’s performance in school and ultimately their ability to use education to rise out of poverty.

The good news is, the Sabin Vaccine Institute has started a campaign to see the end of all 7 of the most common NTDs. GlaxoSmithKline and Eisai donate albendazole and diethylcarbamazine (DEC) and End7 works with partners all over the world to distribute the drugs. One treatment lasts a year and costs 50 cents. Those two dingy quarters that are lying at the bottom of the cup holder in your car could cure someone for a whole year. The first step to driving out poverty is liberating these populations from debilitating curable diseases, allowing parents to get back to work and children to get back to school.

 

Donate to End7 here: http://www.end7.org/get-involved-help-us-end-neglected-tropical-diseases

 

 Tim Farinholt
Farinholt-2078Tim is a fourth year biochemistry grad student interested in exploring a career in science administration. His main focus is rock climbing while occasionally dabbling in the immune system of obscure soil amoebae.
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