Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a diverse group of communicable diseases and tropical infections that affect the poorer populations of the world, specifically in regions such as South America, Asia, and Africa. These diseases thrive in tropical areas where access to clean water and basic preventative measures is limited. The most well-known NTDs include Chagas disease, dengue fever, chikungunya fever, dracunculiasis (also known as Guinea worm disease), leprosy, lymphatic filariasis (also known as elephantiasis), schistosomiasis, and trachoma. NTDs affect more than one billion people worldwide, with the highest number of people requiring interventions from such diseases found in India, Nigeria and Indonesia.
How many people are affected by NTDs?
As of 2020, one of the most widespread NTDs was soil-transmitted helminthiasis, which affected 112 countries worldwide, compared to schistomiasis, or snail fever, which affected 78 countries, and elephantiasis which affected 49. As of that time, around 102 million people worldwide were affected by snail fever, and 819 million were affected by ascariasis, or round worm, one of the three major species of worm that cause soil-transmitted helminthiasis. Control and treatment of NTDs have seen a decline in a number of diseases, with only 15 reported cases of Guinea worm disease in 2021, for example, compared to 25,217 cases in 2006. Prevention and treatment of many NTDs is relatively cheap and can be very effective. One of the most commonly used treatment methods is known as mass drug administration (MDA), in which large at-risk populations are treated with a drug, despite showing no symptoms of the disease. As of 2021, there were 341 million people living in districts where MDA for elephantiasis was no longer needed because there was no longer transmission, or infection levels had reached very low levels.
Funding to fight NTDs
One of the major obstacles in eliminating many NTDs is that the regions affected are poor and lack the adequate resources to control, prevent, and treat the diseases. Funding from global organizations and high-income countries therefore remains essential in fighting against these diseases. The United States is by far the leading country when it comes to public funding for research and development on NTDs, contributing almost 1.9 billion U.S. dollars in 2020. Furthermore, in 2021, the value of donated drugs for NTDs from the USAID NTD program was 952 million dollars. Leading organizations in funding for R&D on NTDs include U.S. National Health Institutes, the Gates Foundation, and the European Commission.
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