Bernard Pécoul, Executive Director, DNDi
A decade ago, research and development (R&D) for neglected diseases was at a standstill. At the time, Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) was experiencing firsthand in the field what it meant to be unable to treat patients with neglected diseases, because treatments did not exist or were inadequate. So MSF decided to commit its 1999 Nobel Peace Prize money to R&D for neglected diseases and, with six key public health partners worldwide – MSF, the Indian Council of Medical Research, Brazil’s Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, the Kenya Medical Research Institute, the Ministry of Health of Malaysia, Institut Pasteur in France, and the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (WHO/TDR) – DNDi was launched in 2003.
Thursday, 23 August 2012, a sunny and very hot afternoon in West Pokot, Kenya: Dust devils circle into the air as pickup trucks packed with passengers drop off numbers of people, who all settle under a large tree in the village. This is where the community gathers for elders’ meetings. It is here that Nancy Chemluo recounts how kala azar affected two of her sons, and how she and her community changed their approach to seeking treatment.
Human African Trypanosomiasis
Musenge Village, Masi Manimba
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Angèle is in her early twenties. She is married and has three children. She and her husband work in the field as subsistance farmers to gather food for their family. In July this year, the sleeping sickness mobile unit paid an important visit to her village to screen the population for the disease. Angèle was diagnosed with late stage sleeping sickness.
and Rosario, ArgentinaThe world’s number one soccer player, Lionel Messi, who plays for FC Barcelona and the Argentina national team, having seen a documentary by Ricardo Preve on Al Jazeera, ‘Chagas, A Silent Killer’, speaks out about Chagas disease. The soccer star calls for teamwork in the field of Chagas disease to treat patients and find altogether new treatments.
Bernard Pécoul, Executive Director, DNDi
Last year saw an important cornerstone laid in the fight against neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), and one that highlighted the need to keep NTD research and development (R&D) on the global public health agenda. In January 2012, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched its NTD strategy, ‘Accelerating Work to Overcome the Global Impact of Neglected Tropical Diseases: A Roadmap for Implementation’, which set forth specific, time-bound targets for the prevention, control, elimination, or eradication of the 17 WHO-defined NTDs by 2020. The goals were set high, and key actors came together to commit to these goals at the ‘Uniting to Combat NTDs’ meeting in London in January 2012. At this meeting, major private, public, international, and non-governmental partners, including DNDi, aligned their efforts to support the WHO roadmap and accelerate progress toward eliminating or controlling 10 of the 17 NTDs by 2020 as put forth in the resulting ‘London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases’.
Dr Florent Mbo Kuikumbi, provincial coordinating physician of North Bandundu for the National Human African Trypanosomiasis Control Programme (DRC)
Sleeping sickness has several facets. We have to cover all of the endemic areas with surveillance efforts, otherwise there will always be pockets than can later lead to epidemics. Today, for example, in Bandundu Province in the DRC, we can only say we are controlling the disease, not eliminating it. We have to be able to cover all of the disease pockets and follow them for some time.
Nathalie Strub-Wourgaft, Medical Director, DNDi
The need for regulatory harmonization (i.e. either allowing for centralized drug registration in multiple countries as one single approval, or mutual recognition which entails expediting registration in additional countries once a drug has been registered in a primary country with sufficient regulatory capacities) in order to reduce the duplication of research efforts, use resources more efficiently, and especially to speed up the process to reach patients, was identified decades ago in Europe.
It’s early on the morning of Thursday, 23 August 2012. We are at the Chemolingot Sub-district Hospital, where SSG&PM treatment is being administered to patients suffering from kala-azar (visceral leishmaniasis). In one of the wards, sitting on a hospital bed, is Lemarus Tebakwani Lukeno, a 23-year-old kala-azar patient, who has been undergoing treatment for five days.