When we talk about modern- day advancements in science and technology, we concentrate on all the developments in the medical field that have helped doctors cure many deadly diseases and save millions of lives. However, there are still many diseases, mostly in developing countries where money can’t be spent on the medical research and development. This often leads to many people losing their lives and gradually those diseases become epidemics. One bunch of such type of diseases is known as Neglected Tropical Diseases.
Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) are a diverse group of tropical infections that are common in low-income populations in developing regions of Africa, Asia, and America. They are caused by a variety of pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, protozoa, and helminths. In sub-Saharan Africa, the effect of these diseases as a group is comparable to malaria and tuberculosis. NTD co-infection can also make HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis more deadly.
A hemistry professor, Michael Pollastri and his team of 12 post-doctoral, graduate and undergraduate students of Northeastern University say that these diseases are neglected by the pharmaceutical industry because they would not be able to recoup or profit from the billions of dollars spent on drug research and development.
In some cases, the treatments are relatively inexpensive. For example, the treatment for schistosomiasis is $0.20 per child per year. Nevertheless, in the year 2010 it was estimated that control of neglected diseases would require funding of between $2 billion and $3 billion over the subsequent 5 to 7 years. Some pharmaceutical companies have committed to donating all the drug required and mass drug administration (for example, mass deworming) has been successfully accomplished in several countries leading to many people getting back to normal health. However, preventive measures are often more accessible in the developed world but unavailable in poorer areas of the developing countries.
The following are two of the many diseases that the World Health Organisation lists as NTDs:
- Buruli Ulcer-
Buruli ulcer is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium ulcerans. It is related to the family of organisms that cause tuberculosis and leprosy, but Mycobacterium ulcerans produces a toxin, mycolactone, that destroys tissue. The risk of mortality is low, although secondary infections can be lethal. Morbidity takes the form of deformity, disability, and skin lesions, which can be prevented through early treatment and treated with antibiotics and surgery. It is found in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
Chagas Disease is also known as American trypanosomiasis. There are approximately 15 million people infected with Chagas disease. The chance of morbidity is higher for immuno-compromised individuals, children, and the elderly, but very low if treated early. Chagas disease does not kill victims rapidly, instead it causes years of debilitating chronic symptoms which are really painful.
NTDs randomly affect women and children and there is also the added risk of hookworm infection during pregnancy and the potential to transfer diseases such as Chagas during pregnancies.
A 2012 review found that infection with a neglected tropical disease predisposes individuals to poor mental health. This is partially due to the social stigma that surrounds NTDs but also caused by the subsequent lack of access to health and social services due to the underdeveloped conditions of the country.
Therefore, the above- neglected diseases are on the path to be cured through donations and special programs but due to lack of proper access to medical facilities in the past, it affected people’s physical as well as mental health. These diseases need a quick diagnosis in order to get cured otherwise the cures would definitely be useless.