Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), sometimes also referred to as Neglected Infectious Diseases, are a group defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) of 20 diseases and disease groups caused by viral, bacterial, fungal, protozoan and parasitic infections, and envenoming. These varied conditions, which cause suffering and death, have been grouped together due to their tendency to affect groups and individuals living in conditions of poverty, their association with stigmatisation and exclusion, and their consequent historical neglect within public health systems.
To understand NTDs, therefore, it is vital to move beyond mere biological explanations. Eradicating NTDs means tackling global structural inequalities in access to healthcare and life opportunities. To this end, we need to understand the lived experiences of those suffering with NTDs, the daily challenges they face and the social, economic and political contexts in which interventions operate.
Affecting over a billion people across 149 countries, NTDs represent a significant public health burden and undermine the achievement of the sustainable development agenda by exacerbating poverty and inequality.
Our NTD research funded by the NIHR focuses primarily on 3 skin diseases:
Mycetoma is a chronic disease usually of the foot but any part of the body can be affected. Infection is most probably acquired by traumatic inoculation of fungi or bacteria into the subcutaneous tissue. So far more than 70 different bacteria and fungi have been indicated as causative agents.
The disease commonly affects young adults, mostly males aged between 15 and 30 years in developing countries. People of low socioeconomic status and manual workers such as agriculturalists, labourers and herdsmen are the most commonly affected.
Mycetoma has numerous adverse medical, health and socioeconomic impacts on patients, communities, and health authorities. Accurate data on its incidence and prevalence are not available. However, early detection and treatment are important to reduce morbidity and improve treatment outcomes.
Mycetoma was first reported in the mid-19th century in Madurai, India, and hence was initially called Madura foot.
Currently, accurate data on its incidence and prevalence are not available. However, early detection and treatment are important to reduce morbidity and improve treatment outcomes.
Podoconiosis (or podo as it is known) is a neglected tropical disease that causes avoidable disability in around 4 million people across Africa, Asia, and Latin America. It is non-infectious, tropical lymphoedema caused by many years of barefoot contact with red clay soil of volcanic origin in highland tropical regions.
Lymphoedema is a chronic condition that causes swelling in the body’s tissues when the lymphatic system isn’t working properly. The disease is commonly misunderstood, causing terrible stigma and distress. Those most affected are some of the world’s most disadvantaged communities, especially subsistence farmers, who are already living below the poverty line. The impact of podo can be devastating on their lives.
Research has now proved that podo is readily preventable by wearing shoes and treatable through a relatively simple but critical regimen of foot-washing, off-the-shelf ointment or emollients, use of compression bandages and skillfully-applied lower-leg massage to aid lymphatic drainage.
Human scabies is a parasitic infestation caused by Sarcoptes scabiei var hominis. The microscopic mite burrows into the skin and lays eggs, eventually triggering a host immune response that leads to intense itching and rash. Scabies infestation may be complicated by bacterial infection, leading to the development of skin sores that, in turn, may lead to the development of more serious consequences such as septicaemia, heart disease and chronic kidney disease.
In 2017, scabies and other ectoparasites were included as Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), in response to requests from Member States and the recommendations of the WHO Strategic and Technical Advisory Group for NTDs.