NTDs are a group of parasitic and bacterial infectious diseases that affect over 1.5 billion people in the world, including 875 million children.
NTDs cause tremendous suffering because of their disfiguring, debilitating, and sometimes deadly impact. The pain hampers a person's ability to work, keep children out of school, and prevent families and communities from thriving. Those suffering from NTD are also socially stigmatised.
Amongst children, infection leads to malnutrition, cognitive impairment, stunted growth, and the inability to attend school.
NTDs reduce people's capacity to generate income and contribute to the growth of economies. This costs developing economies billions of dollars every year. (WHO)
TYPES OF NTDs
The term "neglected" is derived from how NTDs are often unheard of because they do not kill large numbers of people. While there isn't high mortality rates, NTDs cause enormous misery - severe pain, long-term disability, and limit their ability to work.
The most prevalent NTDs are:
- Soil Transmitted Helminths (STHs)
Caused by different species of parasitic worms, mainly the roundworm (Ascaris lumbricoides), the whipworm (Trichuris trichiura) and hookworms (Necator americanus and Ancylostoma duodenale).
STHs are transmitted by eggs present in human faeces which in turn contaminate soil in areas where sanitation is poor. Infected children are physically, nutritionally and cognitively impaired. Approximately 1.5 billion people are infected with STHs worldwide.
- Lymphatic Filariasis (elephantiasis)
Caused by thread-like filarial worms, namely Wuchereria bancrofti, Brugia malayi and Brugia timori.
Lymphatic Filariasis impairs the lymphatic system and can lead to the abnormal enlargement of body parts, causing pain, severe disability and social stigma. It is estimated that 36 million people live with this disease.
- Onchocerciasis (river blindness)
Caused by the parasitic worm Onchocerca volvulus.
Onchocerciasis is an eye and skin disease, which causes severe itching, disfiguring skin conditions, and visual impairment, including permanent blindness. More than 99% of infected people live in 31 African countries.
Caused by blood flukes (trematode worms) of the genus Schistosoma.
Schistosomiasis is an acute and chronic disease that is very disabling, such as causing anaemia, stunting and a reduced ability to learn or work. It could also lead to liver and kidney failure and bladder cancer. It is estimated that at least 218 million people required preventive treatment in 2015.
Caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis.
Trachoma is the leading infectious cause of blindness worldwide and is responsible for the blindness or visual impairment of about 1.9 million people.
Deworming (Drug Administration)
Treatments for a few NTDs include deworming (i.e. medication). Mass Drug Administration (MDA) are safe and highly cost-effective in eliminating NTDs. "Many of which are donated for free or can be purchased for a minimal cost." (SCI)
NTD conditions can each be treated/prevented by taking the appropriate medication every 6-24 months. People have recently started using a combination of five drugs, known as the 'rapid impact package', which comprises of five drugs that need only be taken once a year and allows all of these diseases to be treated at once." (GWWC)
One-third of the total population in Africa - 230 million people - need a regular annual treatment of praziquantel, and 400 million people need a regular annual treatment of albendazole, to eliminate these parasitic diseases from their bodies. (SCI)
(1): END Fund & http://www.who.int/neglected_diseases/diseases/en/