A Closer Look at Neglected Tropical Diseases

A Closer Look at Neglected Tropical Diseases

At the Global Health Council Conference, I attended an interesting event, “Impact of Schistosomiasis and Polyparasitic Infections on Anemia, Growth and Physical Fitness in Children in Coastal Kenya” presented by  Dr. Amaya Bustinduy of Case Western Reserve University which focused on neglected tropical diseases (NTD).

Schistosomiasis remains one of the most serious and prevalent neglected tropical diseases worldwide.  According to Bustinduy, the WHO estimated that there are 235 million cases of schistosomiasis with 732 million to be at risk for contraction. 89% of  all cases live in the less-developed areas of rural sub-Saharan Africa and South America.

Schistosomiasis is associated with diseases such as anemia, growth impairment in children, and mental retardation.  The focus of Dr. Bustinduy’s ongoing study in Kenya is to “address those morbidities as part of a larger study examining the ecology of transmission of Schistosomiasis.”

The study found that the presence of schistosomiasis is associated with growth retardation and anemia, which can lead to cognition problems, decreased productivity, as well as a reduced quality of life.  The objectives of the study were to measure the prevalence of schistosomiasis and assess current trends (as related to child growth, wasting, stunting, anemia and multiple infections when compared to the WHO growth standards for children). Measurements taken included height- for- weight to assess chronic malnutrition, mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) to assess acute malnutrition and a fitness test (the 20 meter shuttle run). The study found anemia was present in 50% of the children. There was a high level of co-infection for children 5 to 7 years of age, in particular with malaria and hookworm. The goal of the research is to leverage this data in order to scientifically show a link between NTDs and poverty and create a prevention program on a national level.

With the recent G-8 announcement, it is clear that donors are becoming more interested in neglected tropical diseases (NTD) as well as analyzing the links between these diseases and how they affect  overall health outcomes such as poor nutrition and anemia-underlying factors that can often affect an individual or a community’s productivity and eventual economic gains. Therefore, there is a strong potential of integrated parasite control in efforts for poverty reduction.

Read the full study.

Wendy Qin is the Strategic Information Assistant at Management Sciences for Health.