Neglected Diseases

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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 groups define the set of diseases differently. Together, they cause an estimated 500,000 to 1 million deaths annually and cause a global disease burden equivalent to that of HIV-AIDS. These diseases are contrasted with the big three diseases (HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria) which receive much more media attention and research funding.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed] In some cases, the treatments are relatively inexpensive. For example, the treatment for schistosomiasis is USD $0.20 per child per year.[1]

The diseases

A young boy from Panama suffering from Chagas disease. It has manifested as an acute infection with swelling of the right eye (chagoma).

Leprosy, tuberculosis, cholera and yellow fever are not exclusively tropical diseases (they have occurred everywhere), but their highest incidence is in the tropics.[citation needed]

Trypanosomal parasites

  • Kala-azar (visceral leishmaniasis, a severe form of leishmaniasis) - Treatments exist, vaccines are under development as of 2006
  • African Sleeping Sickness (African trypanosomiasis) - Disease was nearly eradicated in the 20th century, but relaxation in control methods has led to resurgence. Treatments exist, but are highly toxic and resistance is spreading. This disease is always fatal if untreated. Infection is spread by the bite of the tsetse fly.
  • Chagas disease (American trypanosomiasis) - No vaccine exists for Chagas disease. Treatment for early infection exists but is uneconomical and not authorized as such, current drugs have severe side effects. Chagas disease does not kill victims rapidly, instead causing years of debilitating chronic symptoms. Bites from South American assassin bugs allow the disease to spread.[citation needed] Some disease historians believe that Charles Darwin acquired Chagas Disease during his voyage with the HMS Beagle.[citation needed]

Worm (helminth) parasites

  • Schistosomiasis - Inexpensive praziquantel can treat this disease, but cannot prevent reinfection. Other treatments are harder to obtain in the developing world. Multiple vaccines are under development. Schistoma species have a complex life cycle that alternates between humans and freshwater snails; infection occurs upon contact with contaminated water. This disease is unique in that damage is not caused by the worms themselves, but rather by the large volume of eggs that the worms produce.[2]
  • Lymphatic Filariasis (causes elephantiasis) - Possible antihelminthic treatments under investigation
  • Onchocerciasis (river blindness) - Antihelminthic treatment exists, prevention involves insect control
  • Drancunculiasis (guinea worm) - Eradication goal is 2009, as of 2007

Soil-transmitted helminthiases:

  • Ascariasis (roundworm) - Antihelminthic treatments exist, prevention involves food and sewage sanitation
  • Trichuriasis (whipworm) - Antihelminthic treatments exist, prevention involves food and sewage sanitation
  • Hookworm - Antihelminthic treatments exist, prevention involves food and sewage sanitation

Bacterial infections

  • Leprosy - Antibiotic treatments exist
  • Buruli ulcer - Surgical and antibiotic interventions are recommended
  • Trachoma - Antibiotic treatments exist, prevention involves interpersonal hygiene
  • Cholera - Cholera is caused by Vibrio cholerae bacteria living in contaminated drinking water. The disease presents with severe, watery diarrhea after a short incubation period lasting from zero to five days. Cholera is especially dangerous because it can kill patients in less than 24 hours from rapid dehydration. Antibacterial treatments can cure the disease, but most effective is isotonic fluid replacement therapy, which reduces deaths to 1% of cases. Cholera can be prevented with limited efficacy by two oral vaccines, but access to clean drinking water provides a guarantee of prevention[citation needed].

Viral infections

  • Yellow fever - A vaccine exists for Yellow fever. Yellow fever, like some other neglected diseases, is caused by a flavivirus
  • Dengue fever - Dengue fever is also caused by a flavivirus, and is spread by the bite of the A. Aegypti mosquito. Dengue fever is not usually fatal, but infection with one of four serotypes can increase later susceptibility to other serotypes, resulting in the highly dangerous Dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF). No treatment for either type of disease exists beyond palliative care.
  • Japanese Encephalitis - Japanese encephalitis is also caused by a flavivirus. The disease is spread by Culex tritaeniorhynchus mosquitoes.[citation needed]

See also


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