NTDs Explained

‘Neglected tropical diseases’ (NTDs) is a term first coined by scientists and the WHO, referring to group of diseases that are endemic to tropical regions of Asia, Africa and the Americas. The term neglect is used to describe the research trend after decolonisation, which reflects the reduced scientific research and medical mobilisation against these diseases. This decrease can be linked to many causes, however two that stand in front are socio-economic instabilities or limitations in disease endemic regions and supposed economic restraints due to low market potential.

The precise diseases that are included under this term differs, we are going by the World Health Organisation (WHO) definition.

The 17 neglected tropical diseases result from four different causative pathogens:

Virus Protozoa
  • Dengue/Severe dengue
  • Rabies
  • Chagas disease
  • Human African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness)
  • Leishmaniases
Helminth Bacteria
  • Cysticercosis/Taeniasis
  • Dracunculiasis (guinea-worm disease)
  • Echinococcosis
  • Foodborne trematodiases
  • Lymphatic filariasis
Onchocerciasis (river blindness)
  • Schistosomiasis
  • Soil-transmitted helminthiases
  • Buruli ulcer
  • Leprosy (Hansen disease)
  • Trachoma
  • Yaws

The neglect has led to increasing number of deaths (Chatelain, 2011), due to absence of required health care services drugs suitable for the environment and inefficient (often non-existent) prevention and diagnostic methods. In other words neglect has led to transformation of a local public health problem to a humanitarian crisis that requires mobilisation of sources worldwide.

First step of this mobilisation was taken at the turn of 20th Century – when several initiatives such as DNDi, and The End Fund, were established with a vision to go beyond common practices in research (Nwaka et. al. 2003). At the heart of this change was re-rendering of the ill conceived problems and reorganisation of research efforts based on the existing status quo. Thus we argue that, NTD’s pose unique questions and challenges to all branches of academia, industry, non-governmental and governmental organisation.

The University College London Science and Technology Studies Department currently has two PhD candidates focusing on these diseases from a philosophical and a policy perspective. We propose that these approaches can come together to produce a podcast as an introduction to NTD’s.

STS Radio Studio at UCL

Three main aims of this podcast are:

1) To translate specialist knowledge to a medium that is accessible to wider audiences as a form of public engagement.
2) To raise awareness – we strongly believe that it is our responsibility to inform our audience on the devastation caused by these diseases in their endemic regions and highlight importance of urgent mobilisation.
3) To promote connections among researchers working on NTDs. We are also aiming to reach to early career researchers who might develop interest in NTDs.

Bibliography

Chatelain, E. and J.-R. Ioset (2011). “Drug discovery and development for neglected diseases: the DNDi model.” Dove Press 1(5): 175-181.

Nwaka, S. and R. G. Ridley (2003). “Virtual drug discovery and development for neglected
diseases through public-private partnerships.” Nature Reviews Drug Discovery 2(11): 919-928.

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