The Consortium for the Control and Elimination of Visceral Leishmaniasis, known as KalaCORE, is a new partnership between the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Médecins Sans Frontières and Mott MacDonald. The consortium has been appointed by the Department for International Development (DFID) to tackle Visceral Leishmaniasis (VL) in South Asia and East Africa.
KalaCORE which brings together the world’s leading scientific experts and practitioners in VL, will deliver the UK aid-funded programme over the next four years in six countries (India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Ethiopia, Sudan, and South Sudan) supporting national efforts and coordinating with national VL control programmes.
Visceral Leishmaniasis, also known as kala azar, is one of the most dangerous neglected tropical diseases. Transmitted by the bite of infected sandflies, VL attacks the immune system, and if left untreated is almost always fatal. VL is one of the diseases which persist in the poorest and the most marginalized communities. It is associated with malnutrition, population displacement, poor housing, and lack of resources. While it is vital that research and development for new and improved treatments continue to search for optimal treatments for certain regions, for example East Africa, the currently available tools for diagnosis and treatment need to be made more accessible to those affected, without delay. In South Asia, for example, recent studies have shown that the current treatments are safe and efficacious, forming an important cornerstone of active efforts to eliminate the disease in the region. Here, KalaCORE will focus on supporting countries to keep transmission levels low, addressing the remaining challenges such as poor case detection and inappropriate treatment, and building the capacity of local institutions.
In East Africa, where the disease comes in epidemic waves, flourishing amid weak national health infrastructures, mass displacements of vulnerable, non-immune populations, and the HIV epidemic, the main focus will be on treating as many patients as possible with currently available recommended treatments.
A number of operational research projects will be conducted to fill the main gaps in knowledge, from access to vector control.