DR Congo could face highest burden of neglected tropical diseases

After close to two decades of population displacement, the Democratic Republic of Congo may face the world's highest burden of neglected tropical disease, according to an editorial recently published in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

DR Congo, which recently endured the most deadly conflict since World War II, may have some of the highest levels of schistosomiasis, lymphatic filariasis and intestinal helminth infections in Africa. The country also has the largest number of cases of leprosy in Africa and human African trypanosomiasis in the world.

The authors of the editorial propose that DR Congo's health infrastructure should be strengthened with a comprehensive NTD control, mapping and research program.

"Identifying the reach and severity of NTDs is an essential first step to providing targeted treatments to millions of people in DR Congo," Anne Rimoin, a co-author of the editorial, said. "Increasing surveillance activity of NTDs and studying the emergence of key viral infections should be one of the top health priorities for the country."

The authors found that the Ministry of Public Health of DR Congo demonstrated willingness to expand NTD disease surveillance. The country is planning an ambitious NTD mapping and integrated diseases control program with the support of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

"We have a responsibility to better understand the true burden of NTDs in DR Congo," Peter Hotez, the president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, said. "Future findings from enhanced disease surveillance and research will help shape and achieve important global development milestones in a country that has missed out on much of the economic and social progress spreading throughout many other parts of Africa."

NTDs are a group of 17 bacterial and parasitic infections that most commonly afflict the poorest people in the world. Research shows that treating NTDs can lift millions out of poverty by strengthening worker productivity, improving child and maternal health and ensuring that children stay in school to learn.

Organizations in this Story

U.S. Agency for International Development

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