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The neglected diseases are a group of tropical infections which are especially endemic in low-income populations in developing regions of Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Different organizations define the set of diseases differently. In sub-Saharan Africa, the impact of these diseases as a group is comparable to malaria and tuberculosis. Some of these diseases have known preventive measures or acute medical treatments which are available in the developed world but which are not universally available in poorer areas.
Neglected tropical diseases(NTDs) represent a group of diverse diseases that cause significant morbidity and mortality worldwide but have until recently received limited attention from the affluent regions of the world. More than 1 billion people – one-sixth of the world’s population – suffer from one or more NTDs. These diseases affect the world’s most vulnerable populations, almost exclusively poor and powerless people living in rural areas and urban slums of low-income countries. Their impact on individuals and communities is devastating. Many of them cause severe disfigurement and disabilities, including blindness.
NTDs coexist with poverty because they thrive where access to clean water and sanitation is limited, and people live without protection from disease vectors. The NTDs also are recognized as a contributor to poverty since they can impair intellectual development in children, reduce school enrollment and hinder economic productivity by limiting the ability of infected individuals to work.
The neglected tropical diseases result from four different causative pathogens:
• Dengue/Severe dengue
• Chagas disease
• Human African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness)
• Dracunculiasis (guinea-worm disease)
• Foodborne trematodiases
• Lymphatic filariasis
• Onchocerciasis (river blindness)
• Soil-transmitted helminthiases
• Buruli ulcer
• Leprosy (Hansen disease)
Other neglected conditions
• Chronic suppurative otitis media (CSOM)
• Nodding Syndrome (NS)
Symptoms of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) vary dramatically from disease to disease. Some immediately present symptoms such as fever, aches, rash, sores, or swelling of the lymph nodes or at the site of infection. Some NTDs, such as sleeping sickness, leprosy, and guinea-worm disease, may not present symptoms for one or several years. If treated, most NTDs are not fatal. But if left untreated, NTDs can lead to serious and chronic conditions and can even cause death. Because NTDs generally occur in regions with poor access to health care, many infected people likely die from their infections before the infections are ever reported.
Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are largely preventable, even without vaccines. Clean water, sanitary food handling, and good hygiene can prevent diseases such as guinea-worm disease, schistosomiasis, soil-transmitted helminthiasis, and trachoma.
Vector-borne NTDs—those that are spread by worms, flies, mosquitoes, or other hosts—can be prevented through control of the vectors themselves. This can include mass spraying of insecticides in areas where the vectors breed or gather, killing them before they become parasite carriers. Scientists are also exploring ways to genetically alter the vectors so that they cannot carry the parasite. The genetically altered vectors would then be released into the population to breed and spread their genetic abnormalities to future generations.
Educating the at-risk population is also an important aspect of NTD prevention. By controlling environmental factors that invite NTDs, people can reduce their risk. For instance, eliminating areas of standing water, where mosquitoes like to breed, will reduce the risk of mosquito-borne diseases, or sleeping under a treated bed net will reduce the risk of diseases carried by flies that circulate at night. Travelers to areas where insect-borne NTDs are widespread should take care to wear protective clothing, use bug repellant, and sleep under a treated bed net.
The most of the neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are treatable with existing drugs. Certain treatments are easy to administer and do not require health professionals. The bad news is that, while drug treatments are available for many NTDs, they don’t often reach the people most in need. Several governmental and non-governmental organizations work to help strengthen health infrastructure and deliver drugs in regions afflicted by NTDs. For example, the World Health Organization’s Division of Control of Neglected Tropical Disease helps organize funding and relief efforts in these areas. Some drug companies also donate medications to help treat NTDs. As with tuberculosis and malaria, drug resistance is becoming an issue with NTDs. For example, praziquantel has been used since the 1980s to treat the neglected parasitic worm disease schistosomiasis. Public health officials fear that the worms are evolving resistance to the drug and have underscored the need for further research and development of new and improved treatments for the disease.
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1. MedLicense, India
2. Lishi Medicine Raw Material for Medicine Company Wholesale Department, China
3. Terada Cardiovascular Department Internal Medicine, Japan
4. National Board of Medical Examiners, United States
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This page was last updated on September 17, 2021