Sleeping sickness to river blindness: neglected no more
Up to a billion of the world’s poorest people are vulnerable to tropical diseases that have long been neglected—much like the people they affect. Diseases caused by bacteria and parasites—ranging from the deadly human African trypanosomiasis (dubbed sleeping sickness for its most telling symptom) to the ancient scourge of leprosy—impose a crushing burden in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Central and South America. The effects of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) on health and development contribute to keeping the world’s most vulnerable communities trapped in a cycle of illness and poverty. Now, a coordinated global effort is under way to stamp out 17 NTDs—and PATH is playing a pivotal role.
Fast and affordable diagnostics
New diagnostic tests that can provide rapid results at the point of care and are sensitive enough to detect even low levels of infection are critical to control and eliminate NTDs. PATH works with stakeholders to identify where the introduction and scale-up of new diagnostic tools will have the greatest impact, and we work with partners to develop, test, and ultimately commercialize new, high-impact diagnostic tests for NTDs.
The first products in this suite of new tools—rapid tests for onchocerciasis (commonly known as river blindness), lymphatic filariasis (a cause of elephantiasis), and a single test that detects both diseases—are being used in affected regions. PATH is facilitating uptake of these tests and also advancing tests for other NTDs.
Safe and effective drugs
More than 880 million children face the risk of anemia, irreversible stunting, and deficits in cognitive development due to repeated and chronic infections with soil-transmitted helminths, parasitic worms that thrive in places with limited sanitation and hygiene infrastructure. Mass drug administration is one key to wiping out these infections, but the parasites are becoming resistant to the current drugs. PATH is leading an international partnership to develop a new treatment to mitigate this challenge.
Photo: PATH/Will Boase.