Capitol Hill briefing addresses neglected tropical diseases

Government officials, researchers and pharmaceutical representatives agreed last week at the Congressional Malaria and NTD Caucus in Washington, D.C., that progress is being made to curb neglected tropical diseases.

More money and outside help, however, is needed, the briefing announced, reports.

“These are not only the world's leading health problems in terms of how common they are but they are also the world's leading educational problem,” Peter Hotez, president of Sabin Vaccine Institute said. “Now we know there is actual evidence that chronic hookworm infection in childhood reduces your future wage earning by almost half. These neglected tropical diseases, by their chronic long-term disabling effects, are actually a stealth reason why the bottom billion cannot escape poverty.”

Christy Hanson, a U.S. Agency for International Development representative,  said her agency is currently seeking $65 million in the next budget for neglected tropical diseases.

“To wage an effective all-out battle against these diseases over $1 billion over the next five years would be needed,” Hanson said, reports.

Among potential viable prevention methods, Ken Gustavsen, of Merck's Global Health Partnerships program, suggested a drug-based approach to combat river blindness in South American countries such as Colombia and Ecuador.

“More than 40 percent of the area that was previously endemic in Latin America, transmission has now been eliminated,” Gustavsen said.

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