Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a diverse group of communicable diseases that prevail in tropical and subtropical conditions in 149 countries and affect more than one billion people, costing developing economies billions of dollars every year. They mainly affect populations living in poverty, without adequate sanitation and in close contact with infectious vectors and domestic animals and livestock.
Effective control against NTDs can be achieved when several public health approaches are combined.
The prestigious international weekly interdisciplinary scientific journal – Nature, has published an article featuring Tom Kariuki, a Kenyan immunologist and founding member of ARNTD, who has been tapped to lead a new funding platform for African research. The Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa – AESA, will be operating from the headquarters of the African Academy of Sciences in Nairobi. AESA’s aim is to strengthen African science and researchers, as well as to shift the centre of gravity for African funding decisions from London, Seattle and Geneva etc. to the continent. Three international funding bodies (the Wellcome Trust, the UK Department for International Development, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) are supporting the initiative for the start up with a seed cash of around USD 5.5 million. However in the longer term AESA is counting on the participation of African governments to support research in their own countries.
To read the full article in Nature, visit: http://www.nature.com/news/african-hub-set-up-to-boost-research-autonomy-1.17272
Pauline Mwinzi and Uwem Ekpo; ARNTD Chair and Management Board member respectively, have together with other scientists published a systematic review in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal examining the spatial distribution of schistosomiasis and treatment needs in sub-Saharan Africa. Using Bayesian geostatistical meta-analysis methods and taking environmental and socioeconomic variables into consideration, they predicted schistosomiasis infection risk and calculated the number of doses of praziquantel needed for prevention of morbidity. The work of these scientists is expected to inform the spatial targeting of schistosomiasis control interventions and also has the potential to inform policy makers on the number of treatments needed at different health administrative levels in endemic countries.
Lai, Ying-Si, Patricia Biedermann, Uwem F Ekpo, Amadou Garba, Els Mathieu, Nicholas Midzi, Pauline Mwinzi, et al. 2015. “Spatial Distribution of Schistosomiasis and Treatment Needs in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Systematic Review and Geostatistical Analysis.” The Lancet Infectious Diseases, May. http://doi.org/10.1016/S1473-3099(15)00066-3
Lassa fever, a viral hemorrhagic disease, is estimated to infect 150,000–300,000 persons every year, killing ≈5,000. Within West Africa, Lassa fever is endemic to 2 regions: 1) Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia; and 2) Nigeria. Even within most of these countries, Lassa fever is endemic to certain areas but rare or completely absent in others. Zoonotic disease nidality describes the phenomenon in which geographic occurrence of a zoonotic disease is markedly focused or fragmented, as opposed to occurring continuously or spreading in a consistent pattern. Zoonotic disease nidality might result when only select phyletic groups in a host species are capable of serving as reservoirs for the pathogen.
Malaria and schistosomiasis coinfections are common, and chronic schistosomiasis has been implicated in affecting the severity of acute malaria. However, whether it enhances or attenuates malaria has been controversial due the lack of appropriately controlled human studies and relevant animal models. To examine this interaction, we conducted a randomized controlled study using the baboon (Papio anubis) to analyze the effect of chronic schistosomiasis on severe malaria. Two groups of baboons (n = 8 each) and a schistosomiasis control group (n = 3) were infected with 500 Schistosoma mansoni cercariae. At 14 and 15 weeks postinfection, one group was given praziquantel to treat schistosomiasis infection.
Lassa fever, a viral haemorrhagic disease, affects 150,000–300,000 people in West Africa, causing up to 5,000 deaths per year. It was discovered in 1969 in Nigeria when American nurses died in Jos Evangel Hospital after a human-to-human transmission. The first case came from Lassa, a village located in Maiduguri region near the border with Cameroon (in present day Bornu state, Nigeria). Shortly after this first outbreak several cases were recorded in eastern Sierra Leone, leading to investigations to identify the virus reservoir among commensal rodents. The Multimammate rat Mastomys natalensis was then discovered as a reservoir host of Lassa virus (LASV) in 1974. Till now, there have been a number of reports suggesting other rodents might also be reservoirs of this virus.
Seventy percent of Cameroonian women of childbearing age carry one of the world’s most common parasites Toxoplasma gondii. The resulting infection, toxoplasmosis, can have devastating effects on pregnant women and their babies and cause serious health complications in people with weakened immune systems.
There is no safe and effective treatment for toxoplasmosis, but Dr. Fabrice Fekam Boyom, a professor of biochemistry at the Université de Yaoundé I in Cameroon, is working towards changing that.
The University of Tübingen has set up its first professorship in an African country. The post is sponsored by the German government-financed German Center for Infection Research (DZIF) and backed by the government of Gabon. The new professor will be based at the Centre de Recherches Médicales de Lambaréné (CERMEL) in Gabon and focus on immuno-epidemiology and clinical infection research in the tropics. Dr. Ayola Akim Adegnika has been appointed to the post for an initial five year period. Dr. Adegnika is currently co-director at CERMEL in the Gabonese town of Lambaréné, some 240km southeast of the capital Libreville.
The Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) is delighted to announce the honorary appointment of Louis-Albert Tchuem Tchuenté as an NTD Ambassador.
Louis-Albert is a highly regarded senior academician and researcher who is well placed to advocate for NTD donors, governments and organizations to maintain, and increase, their commitments to achieve the World Health Organization’s Roadmap goals.
Louis-Albert will work to raise the profile of NTDs among policymakers, media and general public of the plight faced by people afflicted by them, and the importance in controlling and preventing NTDs.