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Extended mapping of trachoma in the Western Pacific Region Credit: Robert Butcher

LSHTM Neglected Tropical Disease Network

Good-quality research is integral to making a sustainable impact on NTD control. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is internationally recognised as a leading centre for NTD research. 

LSHTM NTDs Network 3 columns
Research by NTD

Over 1 billion people are infected with one or more NTDs. LSHTM researcher expertise extends over the vast majority of these often diverse diseases. 

Research by discipline

The LSHTM NTD Network is comprised of over 100 researchers with expertise in a wide range of diseases, research foci and specialties.  

Research Collaboration

LSHTM is a founding member of the London Centre of NTD Research. An innovative research collaboration between LSHTM, Imperial College London, Natural History Museum and the Royal veterinary College.

Research by NTDs
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Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a diverse group of communicable diseases that impact on the lives of more than one billion people, causing mortality, morbidity, disability and stigma.

Communities living in poverty, without adequate sanitation and in close contact with infectious vectors and domestic animals and livestock are those worst affected.

The World Health Organization currently identify over 20 different diseases as NTDs. Research expertise at LSTHM covers 10 of these diseases. Click on the titles below to find out more about each disease and the researchers working on them.  

Buruli ulcer

Buruli ulcer is caused by a germ that produces a toxin – mycolactone – which destroys tissue. Mode of transmission is not known but infection leads to large painful ulcers usually on the legs or arms. Patients who do not receive early treatment suffer long-term disability. Early diagnosis and treatment are the only ways to minimize morbidity and prevent disability.

Chagas (American trypanosomiasis)

Chagas disease, also known as American trypanosomiasis, is a potentially life-threatening illness caused by the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi (T. cruzi) transmitted by triatomine bugs. It infects about 6 million to 7 million people mostly in Latin America. Up to 30% of chronically infected people develop cardiac alterations and up to 10% develop digestive, neurological or mixed alterations which may require specific treatment. Vector control is the most useful method to prevent the disease.

Dengue

Dengue is a mosquito-borne viral infection causing a severe flu-like illness and, sometimes causing a potentially lethal complication called severe dengue.Up to 50-100 million infections are now estimated to occur annually in over 100 endemic countries, putting almost half of the world’s population at risk. Severe dengue affects Asian and Latin American countries and has become a leading cause of hospitalization and death among children and adults in these regions.

Human African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness)

Human African trypanosomiasis (HAT), also known as sleeping sickness, is a parasitic disease transmitted by the bite of the 'Glossina' insect, commonly known as the tsetse fly. The disease mostly affects poor populations living in remote rural areas of Africa. Untreated, it is usually fatal.

Leishmaniasis

The leishmaniases are a group of diseases caused by protozoan parasites from more than 20 Leishmania species.Parasites are are transmited by a femal phlebotomine sandfly. There are three main forms of leishmaniasis: cutaneous, visceral or kala-azar, and mucocutaneous. Leishmaniasis refers to the fact of becoming sick due to a Leishmania infection and not the mere fact of being infected with the parasite.

Leprosy

Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae. The disease mainly affects the skin, the peripheral nerves, mucosal surfaces of the upper respiratory tract and the eyes. Leprosy is curable and early treatment averts most disabilities.The exact mechanism of transmission of leprosy is not known.

Lymphatic filariasis

Lymphatic filariasis, commonly known as elephantiasis, is caused by three species of thread-like nematode worms, known as filariae. Filarial infection can cause a variety of clinical manifestations, including lymphoedema of the limbs, genital disease (hydrocele, chylocele, and swelling of the scrotum and penis) and recurrent acute attacks, which are extremely painful and are accompanied by fever.

Onchocerciasis

Onchocerciasis, also known as “river blindness”, is caused by the parasitic worm Onchocerca volvulus, transmitted through the bite of infected blackflies. Symptoms include severe itching, disfiguring skin conditions, and visual impairment, including permanent blindness. More than 99% of infected people live in 31 African countries. 99% of those infected live in 31 African countries. Community-directed treatment with ivermectin is the core strategy to eliminate onchocerciasis in Africa.

Scabies

Human scabies is a parasitic infestation caused by Sarcoptes scabiei var hominis. The mite, barely visible to the naked eye, burrows into the epidermis and lays eggs, triggering a host immune response that leads to intense itching in response to just a few mites. Scabies infestation is frequently complicated by bacterial infection, leading to the development of skin sores that, in turn, can cause more serious consequences such as septicaemia, heart disease and chronic kidney disease. Scabies is one of the commonest dermatological conditions, accounting for a substantial proportion of skin disease in developing countries. Globally, it affects more than 130 million people at any time.

Schistosomiasis

Schistosomiasis infection occurs when people come into contact with fresh water infested with the larval forms (cercariae) of parasitic blood flukes, known as schistosomes. The microscopic adult worms live in the veins draining the urinary tract and intestines. Schistosomiasis affects almost 240 million people worldwide, and more than 700 million people live in endemic areas. Infection leads to chronic ill-health including increased rates of malnutrition, aneamia etc.

Soil-transmitted helminthiases

Soil-transmitted helminth infections are among the most common infections worldwide and affect the poorest and most deprived communities. They are transmitted by eggs present in human faeces which in turn contaminate soil in areas where sanitation is poor. Intestinal worms produce a wide range of symptoms including intestinal manifestations (diarrhoea, abdominal pain), general malaise and weakness. Hookworms cause chronic intestinal blood loss that result in anaemia

Trachoma

Trachoma is the leading infectious cause of blindness in the world. Infection spreads from person to person, particularly from child to child and from child to mother to child. The disease thrives especially in crowded living conditions where there are shortages of water, inadequate sanitation and where numerous eye-seeking flies are present.

Yaws (Endemic treponematoses)

Yaws is a poverty-related chronic skin disease that affects mainly children below 15 years of age (with a peak between 6 and 10 years). The bacterial disease is transmitted by skin contact. Yaws mainly affects the skin, but can also involve the bone and cartilage. Early detection and treatment can avoid the gross disfigurement and disability which occur in about 10% of cases.

Zoonotic diseases

WHO defines zoonoses as diseases and infections that are naturally transmitted between vertebrate animals and humans. A zoonotic agent may be a bacterium, a virus, a fungus or other communicable disease agent. At least 61% of all human pathogens are zoonotic, and have represented 75% of all emerging pathogens during the past decade.

 

Research by discipline
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LSHTM's NTD research specialties

 

 

The multi-faceted challenge of controlling and eliminating NTDs as a public health concern requires a complex multidisciplinary response.  With over 100 researchers working in the field of NTDs LSHTM provides a vital source of expertise and research findings to support governments and their development partners to develop the tools, policies and programmes they need to effectively target these diseases.  

These research focuses can be grouped under three main catergories:

Genomics,drugs and control tools

LSHTM research is at the forefront of efforts to develop and improve the tools and medicines needed to identify, target and treat NTDs. 

A necessary step in understanding how to tackle NTDs is to understand the genomes of the parasites that cause the diseases. Genomic research by LSHTM is providing insights to facilitate the development of new strategies to prevent and treat these debilitating diseases.

LSHTM has longstanding expertise in the identification and development of new control tools and treatments. This expertise ranges from the development of new vaccines to research improving our understanding of anti-microbial resistance. LSHTM also serves as a centre of excellence for cutting edge research into disease control measures focusing on integrated vector management.
 

Selected research focusing on genomics, drugs and control tools:

Research Groups

Antimicrobial Resistance Centre - brings together a range of disciplines to promote and facilitate high quality research into anti-microbial resistance.

Arthropod Control Product Test Centre (arctec) - is an independent test centre for the evaluation and development of arthropod pest control technologies.

Vaccine Centre - is a collaborative partnership of over 100 scientists that aims to improve human and animal health through vaccination. Specifically they aim to develop new vaccines and evaluate their biological potential; test new vaccines for safety, immunogenicity and efficacy; and evaluate and optimise vaccine programmes and policies.

Research Projects

Genomic research 

Diagnostics, epidemiology and trials 

The study and analysis of the patterns, causes and effects of NTDS on the communities they infect is at the core of efforts to control and eliminate NTDs.  

LSHTM is a leading centre of NTD epidemiological research, encompassing spatial, statistical, environmental and genetic approaches alongside statistical and mathematical modelling. This expertise helps to map and predict the prevalence of NTDs and understand the underlying patterns which can be used to inform policy decisions and encourage evidence-based practices.

Decision making is also informed by effective and efficient tools to monitor and detect diseases. LSHTM researchers are working to improve diagnostics for NTDs which are vital for guiding control strategies at different thresholds of control, interruption of transmission, elimination and post-elimination surveillance. 

Finally, to test treatment regimes or identify programmatic efficiencies LSTHM researchers are conducting a range of clinical and programmatic treatment trials. These range from testing different drug combinations to treat yaws infections on islands in the South Pacific to measuring the effectiveness of wide-scale deworming programmes in Malawi to eliminate STH. 

Selected diagnostics, epidemiology and trials research:

Research Groups

London Applied and Spatial Epidemiology Research Group (LASER) - combines expertise in the fields of spatial statistics and GIS technology, quantitative epidemiology and operational research to build the evidence-base around diseases of poverty and the communities they affect.

Tropical Epidemiology Group - includes statistical epidemiologists specialising in studies on the epidemiology and control of major public health problems of developing countries, in particular Africa and Asia, with a special emphasis on intervention studies. The group conducts researches into trachoma, visceral leishmaniasis, helminth infections, and dengue.

Social and Mathematical Epidemiology (SaME) group - is a dynamic group of about 40 researchers working on a variety of areas in public health. A focus of this working is the mathematical modelling of the NTDs in particular leprosy and visceral leishmaniasis.

The Centre for the Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases - is a multidisciplinary grouping of epidemiologists, mathematicians, economists, statisticians and clinicians from across all three faculties of LSHTM. CMMID interests in NTDs include work modelling dengue fever, lymphatic filariasis, schistosomiasis and trypanosomiasis.

Open Data Kit @ LSHTM - an electronic data collection service to help scientific researchers use ODK in their projects.
 
Erythema Nodosum Leprosum International STudy (ENLIST) Group - is a conducting two double blind randomised clinical trials to determine if methotrexate (an immunosuppressant) improves the outcomes for individuals with these severe episodes of inflammation as a result of treatment for leprosy.

Research projects

Mapping and modelling

    Diagnostics

    Trials

    Programmes, policy and health systems

    Research has an important role to play in improving health systems and health care delivery. LSTHM researcher provides the NTD community with objective scientific evidence to identify what control approaches work, what does not, and why. This enables stakeholders to develop effective implementation strategies that are appropriate for the environment in which they are needed. 

    Selected LSHTM research on programmes, policy and health systems:

    Research Groups

    Communicable Diseases Policy Research Group - conducts research across the SE Asia region, and beyond. It provides a focus of expertise on the diverse public health problems associated with communicable disease control internationally and carries out research that is in support of and for policy reform.

    Speak India: Setting the Post-Elimination Agenda for Kala-Azar in India - aims to develop a consensus on the additional knowledge required to ensure VL transmission is successfully interrupted and elimination is sustained.

    KalaCORE -  is a partnership to support the control and elimination of visceral leishmaniasis in six countries, three in Asia (India, Nepal and Bangladesh) and three in Africa (Ethiopia, Sudan and South Sudan).

    Environmental Health Group - works with a range of other partners in the areas of hygiene, water, sanitation, behavior change, policy, capacity building and disease control including an expertise in helminths and trachoma. EHG combines engineering with epidemiology, biology, the social sciences and economics and encompasses:

    • Hygiene central - develops and applies knowledge that will help improve hygiene, sanitation and household water treatment worldwide.
    • Sanitation and Hygiene Applied Research for Equity SHARE - contributes to achieving universal access to effective, sustainable and equitable sanitation and hygiene by generating evidence to improve policy and practice worldwide.
    • AfricanSnows – builds African capacity for interdisciplinary research in water supply, sanitation and environmental health, bringing together universities from across the continent, with research active universities in the North.

    Research projects

    • Investigating Networks of Zoonosis Innovation (INZI) - is exploring how African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) has been researched, understood and controlled from the Second World War to the present day.
    • Eliminating trachoma in Malawi - critical biosocial analysis to show how biomedical categories of diagnosis, assumptions of transmission, and technologies of elimination, shape trachoma at a local level.
    Researchers
    NTD Researchers
    NTD network researchers

    Allen
    Foster

    Professor

    Anita
    Ramesh

    Research Fellow

    Anna
    Last

    Associate Professor

    Chrissy
    Roberts

    Associate Professor

    Clare
    Gilbert

    Professor

    Hannah
    Kuper

    Professor

    James
    Logan

    Professor

    Jayne
    Webster

    Professor

    Jennifer
    Palmer

    Assistant Professor

    Katherine
    Halliday

    Assistant Professor

    Katie
    Greenland

    Assistant Professor

    Maddy
    Gupta-Wright

    Research Degree Student

    Mark
    Jit

    Professor

    Mark
    Rowland

    Professor

    Martin
    Taylor

    Associate Professor

    Mary
    Cameron

    Professor

    Michael
    Gaunt

    Assistant Professor

    Michael
    Marks

    Assistant Professor

    Nick
    Astbury

    Associate Professor

    Peter
    Smith

    Professor

    Rachel
    Pullan

    Associate Professor

    Sam
    Alsford

    Associate Professor

    Sarah
    Burr

    Assistant Professor

    Sarah
    Polack

    Associate Professor

    Tapan
    Bhattacharyya

    Research Fellow

    William
    Oswald

    Research Fellow

    Susana
    Campino

    Associate Professor

    Malwina
    Carrion

    Distance Learning Tutor

    Graham
    Clark

    Professor

    Oliver
    Cumming

    Assistant Professor

    Tom
    Drake

    Assistant Professor

    Amanda
    Francisco

    Research Fellow

    Nick
    Furnham

    Associate Professor

    John
    Manton

    Assistant Professor

    Tegwen
    Marlais

    Research Degree Student

    Raphaelle
    Metras

    Assistant Professor

    Kathleen
    O'Reilly

    Assistant Professor

    Francisco
    Olmo

    Research Assistant

    James
    Rudge

    Assistant Professor

    Haleema
    Shakur-Still

    Associate Professor

    Seyi
    Soremekun

    Assistant Professor

    Belen
    Torondel

    Assistant Professor

    Thomas
    Walker

    Assistant Professor

    Conall
    Watson

    Research Degree Student

    Laith
    Yakob

    Associate Professor

    Matthew
    Yeo

    Assistant Professor

    Shunmay
    Yeung

    Associate Professor
    Research Collaboration
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    Research Collaboration
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    LSHTM is a founding member of the London Centre of NTD Research, a innovative  collaboration between NTD researchers from LSHTM, Imperial College London, Natural History Museum and the Royal veterinary College.

    The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is a founding member of the London Centre for Neglected Tropical Disease Research (LCNTDR). Ann innovative research collaboration, bringing together leading experts to tackle diseases which affect the lives of over 1.7 billion of the poorest people across the globe.

    The LCNTDR undertakes cutting-edge research to build the evidence base around the design, implementation and evaluation of neglected tropical disease control and elimination programmes.

    The LCNTDR was launched in 2013 with the aim of providing focused operational and research support for NTD control. The LCNTDR member institutions house leading NTD experts with a wide range of specialties, making the Centre a valuable resource for cross-sectoral research and collaboration.    

    It is a joint initiative of:

    Mission

    The LCNTDR will facilitate coordination of NTD research activities between its members, with its priority being to enhance efforts to control some of the most common NTDs worldwide. 

    Objectives

    • Provide evidence based technical and training support to countries investing in national NTD programmes;
    • Support harmonization of multi-sectoral partnerships and collaborations;
    • Act as an NTD knowledge base for disseminating innovative and evidence based information for policy and programme formulation;
    • Provide a neutral coordinating platform for partner collaboration on NTD control and prevention efforts;
    • Carry out research on new approaches to the study of the geography, transmission dynamics and control of NTDs, with a particular focus on integrated diagnosis and mapping and integrated control of more than one NTD.