Eradicating neglected tropical diseases – experts gather for WHO Summit

Global efforts to tackle Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) are under the microscope at a special summit in Switzerland. Experts from around the world, including the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, have gathered in Geneva to check progress on the eradication of diseases such as leprosy, leishmaniasis, blinding trachoma and human African trypanosomiasis.
Distribution of deworming tablets as part of the TUMIKIA research Project in Kenya. Credit: London Applied & Spatial Epidemiology Research Group

NTD Summit 2017, taking place between 19-22 April, marks the fifth anniversary of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Roadmap for Implementation, which outlined bold targets for the control, elimination or eradication of 17 NTDs by 2020. The event is celebrating achievements since 2012 and defining a clear path towards the 2020 goals and beyond.

The School is playing a pivotal role in supporting the WHO to achieve many of its ‘roadmap’ targets. At the Summit, School experts are speaking on a range of subjects, from changing sanitation and hygiene behaviour, to controlling trachoma and integrating mental health care into NTD programmes.

Simon Croft, Professor of Parasitology at the School, is chairing a session on visceral leishmaniasis. He said: “Neglected tropical diseases affect more than one billion people worldwide. They occur in remote communities which are home to some of the world’s poorest people, and can lead to disfigurement and shortened life expectancy.  NTDs can also have a serious negative impact socially, affecting education and employment. However, the good news is that many of these diseases are treatable or preventable.

“This summit brings together leading players from industry and public health to renew the effort to find new diagnostics, treatments and vaccines, as well as better ways to implement strategies to help control, eliminate or eradicate NTDS.”

The School conducts a broad range of NTD research. It is home to the London Applied & Spatial Epidemiology Research Group (LASER) which is at the forefront of mapping the global distribution of a range of NTDs through the Global Atlas of Helminth Infections. This is providing policymakers and public health managers with a unique online repository of maps and data with which to target and design NTD programmes.  

LASER is also currently undertaking the final survey of 27,000 households in Kenya as part of the TUMIKIA project which aims to eliminate soil transmitted helminths infections - the largest research project of its kind in the world. The findings will be used to help inform global policy on how best to design a control programme for a disease which infects more than 800 million people worldwide. 

The School is also a founder member of the London Centre for Neglected Tropical Disease Research, an innovative research collaboration that is building the evidence base around the design, implementation and evaluation of neglected NTD control and elimination programmes.

Prof Croft said: “The School continues to play an important role in tackling NTDs through its wide-ranging research. We work closely with the Department for International Development, the Gates Foundation and other funders on many key projects, and look forward to continuing our successful partnerships to achieve the 2020 goals.”

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Image: Distribution of deworming tablets as part of the TUMIKIA research Project in Kenya. Credit: London Applied & Spatial Epidemiology Research Group

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