Significant progress has been achieved in the fight against 17 neglected tropical diseases, according to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO).
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. These diseases include Dengue, Trachoma, Rabies, leprosy, and river blindness (Onchocerciasis).
The report, "Sustaining the drive to overcome the global impact of neglected tropical diseases" says new momentum has shifted the world closer to the elimination of many of these conditions that take their greatest toll amongst the poor.
The report reveals that the eradication of guinea worm, for instance, is in sight with only 521 cases reported between January and September 2012 compared with 1006 confirmed cases for the same period in 2011, likewise trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) to less than 7000 in 2011 from a as high as 30 000 annual cases at the turn of the century.
Rabies has been eliminated in several countries, with WHO eyeing regional elimination of this preventable disease by 2020. A new strategy which involves the early detection and use of antibiotics to treat Buruli ulcer has drastically reduced suffering and disability from this chronic and debilitating skin condition.
"In 2010 alone, 711 million people received treatment for at least one of the four diseases (lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiases) targeted for preventive chemotherapy, which involves the widespread delivery of safe, single-dose, quality-assured medicines as preventive treatment," the report stated.
“The prospects for success have never been so strong, many millions of people are being freed from the misery and disability that have kept populations mired in poverty, generation after generation, for centuries,” Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO said.
Dr Chan added that “the challenge now is to strengthen capacity of national disease programmes in endemic countries and streamline supply chains to get the drugs to the people who need them, when they need them.”
However the report says dengue posed a new threat in 2012 - “dengue ranked as the fastest spreading vector-borne viral disease, with an epidemic potential in the world, registering a 30-fold increase in disease incidence over the past 50 years."