"The big three" infections AIDS, TB and malariahave caught the world's attention but other disabling and fatalinfectious diseases in Africa are being ignored, say three eminenttropical disease researchers in the international health journal PLoSMedicine.
The neglected tropical diseases, which include sleeping sickness,schistosomiasis, river blindness, hookworm, elephantiasis, and blindingtrachoma, affect several hundred million people, and kill at least halfa million annually, and yet they garner little attention from donors,policymakers, and public health officials.
The researchers, led by Professor David Molyneux, Director of theLymphatic Filariasis Support Centre at the Liverpool School of TropicalMedicine, argue that a "rapid impact package" -- distribution of fouranti-parasitic drugs across Africa to treat seven neglecteddiseases -- would bring tangible benefits to the world's poorestcommunities.
The cost of the package, they say, would be negligible -- a mere 40 centsper person per year, compared with a minimum of $200 per person peryear to treat HIV/AIDS, $200 to treat a single episode of TB, and $7-10to treat a single episode of malaria.
Three of the drugs in the package (ivermectin, azithromycin, andalbendazole) are being donated by their manufacturers, and the fourth(praziquantel) now costs only 7 cents per tablet.
Professor Molyneux and his colleagues, Professor Peter Hotez of theHuman Hookworm Initiative and Professor Alan Fenwick of theSchistosomiasis Control Initiative, argue that a rapid impact packageagainst some of the neglected tropical diseases could permanentlyreduce their incidence.
For costs that are relatively modest compared to controlling "the bigthree," an integrated control package for neglected tropical diseasescould have a proportionately greater impact on more poor people'shealth as well as being more equitable for the majority of Africa'spoorest and marginalised communities.
The researchers "urge policy makers and health economists to recognizethat although HIV, TB, and malaria are the most serious problems facinghealth planners, other diseases exist that can be addressed atrealistic costs with effective interventions."
"Controlling Africa's neglected diseases is one of the more convincingways to 'make poverty history' through affordable, pro-poor, effective,and tested strategies."
Citation: Molyneux DH, Hotez PJ, Fenwick A (2005)"Rapid-impact interventions": How a policy of integrated control forAfrica's neglected tropical diseases could benefit the poor. PLoS Med2(11): e336.
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