It is very natural to think of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) as those that affect far off and exotic populations, places we may never visit and people we may never know. But that myth has been busted by Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute (one of IDRI’s collaborators) Hotez warns that it is the G20 countries that harbor a “lion’s share” of the NTD burden. These diseases are hidden among the extremely poor and marginalized and are largely hidden from most authorities.
Take the example of visceral leishmaniasis (VL), the deadliest among the NTDs. India accounts for the highest global burden of VL concentrated in its poorest state, while Brazil accounts for the most complex spread of VL, from a strictly rural to a peri-urban localization. For those who ask why we in the U.S. must worry about other G 20 countries, here comes the shock: in the Southern states of the U.S. live at least 12 million people exposed to one or more tropical diseases, including NTDs such as Chagas disease and cutaneous leishmaniasis, parasitic worm infections and emerging vector-borne diseases like chikungunya. Though location, climate, vectors and immigration have contributed to some incidence, one factor that ties the people from India, Brazil and the U.S. to the unfortunate masses in sub-Saharan Africa is poverty. (more…)