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What Are NTDs or Neglected Tropical Diseases?

Updated on February 14, 2018

Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) are the worst types of infectious diseases affecting more than a billion people in the poorest countries in the world.

These poorest countries referred to are located in Latin America, Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. More than half a million people die of these diseases each year.

NTDs lead to poverty and physical, psychological and emotional disability brought about by many factors.

Reasons why NTDs have long been neglected:

  • They affect primarily people from the poorest countries in the world where efforts to eradicate these diseases have been side-tracked and taken for granted
  • The awareness level for this types of diseases is very, very low.
  • In recent years, only malaria, TB and HIV/AIDS have been given much attention due to their high death rate. There is also a high level of awareness about these three diseases.
  • Most of the diseases do not show early symptoms and their incubation periods are very long preventing early detection and treatment,

What is being done to prevent and eradicate these neglected tropical diseases (NTDs)

Preventing the further spread and finally eradicating these diseases are urgent issues because of the negative life-changing effects they bring to affected people such as physical disfigurement, blindness, various kinds of disabilities, and social stigma.

  • Support from pharmaceutical companies. Mass drug administration has been implemented to help eradicate neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) especially filiariasis, trachoma and onchocerciasis.
  • Implementation of policies to eradicate NTDs
  • Support from various NGOs and funding agencies such as the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the UK Department for International Development, World Health Organization, and the Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation.

There is a conflicting number of neglected tropical diseases. CDC, The WHO and experts in tropical medicine have conflicting data as to which diseases should be included in the list.

There are currently 13 identified neglected tropical diseases according to a researcher in tropical diseases namely:

  • Lymphatic filariasis. More commonly called elephantiasis, this disease is caused by worms which are carried by mosquitoes from an infected person. Elephantiasis leaves a long-lasting physical and psychological damage to the person as he constantly experiences chronic pain, develops some kind of a genital disease and develops lymphoedema of the limbs.
  • Onchocerciasis. Also called River Blindness, this disease is caused by the onchocerca volvulus worm which thrives and breeds along rivers and streams.
  • Dracunculiasis. This disease also called guinea worm disease occurs when a person is infected by contaminated water containing water fleas that carry larvae of the guinea worm.
  • Schistosomiasis. This disease is also called Snail Fever and caused by the parasitic worm called schistosomes.

Symptoms include pain in the abdomen, diarrhea, high white blood cell count, fever, blood in the stool and urine. Those who have been suffering from this disease for a long time would experience infertility, bladder cancer, kidney failure, and disease of the liver. Children may experience slow development and poor physical growth.

Chagas' disease

  • human African tripanosomiasis
  • leishmeniasis
  • Buruli ulcer
  • leprosy
  • trachoma
  • ascariasis
  • hookworm infection; and
  • trichuriasis

School children in Rwanda receiving drugs for tropical diseases

What are Neglected Tropical Diseases

© 2014 Zee Mercado


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