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London Centre for Neglected Tropical Diseases Research launched

Thursday, 31 January 2013

The School has teamed up with London partners to launch a new research initiative to tackle Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) which affect more than one billion of the world’s poorest people.

Trachoma testing in EthiopiaOn 30 January, the School hosted the launch of the London Centre for Neglected Tropical Disease Research - www.londonntd.org, a partnership with Imperial College London and The Natural History Museum to facilitate co-ordination of research activities on NTDs including blinding trachoma, schistosomiasis, soil-transmitted helminths and leishmaniasis.

Baroness Hayman, Chair of the All Parliamentary Group on NTDs, Prof Sir Roy Anderson of Imperial College London, Dr Lorenzo Savioli, Head of NTDs at the World Health Organization, and Prof Peter Piot, Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, were among researchers and policy makers who spoke at the meeting. Attendants also watched a video message from Don Bundy, Lead Specialist for Health, Nutrition and Population at the World Bank and board member of the Centre.

Prof Anderson, Director of the new Centre said: "Effective advocacy must continue, but we also need effective implementation, and this means a significant research agenda embracing mapping and surveillance, molecular epidemiology, clinical factors, diagnostics and response to therapy."

Simon Brooker, Professor of Epidemiology and Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow at the School, and a deputy director of the Centre, said: "Although we have come a long way in our knowledge about NTDs, questions still remain about how best to treat and control them over vast areas of the developing world. London is home to several leading NTD research groups, and this Centre is an opportunity to bring this expertise together to deliver effective interventions and reduce the burden of these diseases."

Prof Brooker showed how innovative mobile and mapping technologies are now playing a key role in controlling NTDs, such as the Global Atlas of Helminth Infections - www.thiswormyworld.org, a web-based open-access information resource on the distribution of soil-transmitted helminths, schistosomiasis and lymphatic filariasis for use by health workers worldwide.

Earlier this month, the UK Coalition against Neglected Tropical Diseases - www.ntd-coalition.org, a partnership which includes the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, published its report Promises to Progress - www.unitingtocombatntds.org/content/promises-to-progress, marking a year since Bill Gates brought governments, funders and NGOs together to launch the 2012 London Declaration on NTDs.

As part of this effort, the UK government announced £195 million funding to support NTD control and elimination, protecting more than 140 million people. This includes the provision of £10.6m to complete the global mapping of blinding trachoma, which is being conducted by School staff working with a partnership of researchers and NGOs led by Sightsavers.

Image: Bigiltuu Kefeni, 5, from Keta town in the Oromia region of Ethiopia is one of the first of four million people to be examined as part of a massive global project to map and confirm the burden of the blinding disease trachoma Credit: Dominic Nahr/Magnum Photos/Sightsavers

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