Neglected Tropical Diseases
  • Chagas disease, also known as American trypanosomiasis, is a potentially life-threatening illness caused by the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi.

  • Dengue is a mosquito-borne viral disease that has rapidly spread in all regions of WHO in recent years. Dengue virus is transmitted by female mosquitoes mainly of the species Aedes aegypti and, to a lesser extent, Ae. albopictus. These mosquitoes are also vectors of chikungunya, yellow fever and Zika viruses. Dengue is widespread throughout the tropics, with local variations in risk influenced by rainfall, temperature, relative humidity and unplanned rapid urbanization.

  • Dracunculiasis is rarely fatal, but infected people become non-functional for weeks and months. It affects people in rural, deprived, and isolated communities who depend mainly on open stagnant surface water sources such as ponds for drinking water.

  • The leishmaniases are a group of diseases caused by protozoan parasites from more than 20 Leishmania species. These parasites are transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected female phlebotomine sandfly, a tiny – 2–3 mm long – insect vector.

  • Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, is a chronic infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae. The disease mainly affects the skin, the peripheral nerves, mucosal surfaces of the upper respiratory tract and the eyes. Leprosy is known to occur at all ages ranging from early infancy to very old age. Leprosy is curable and early treatment averts most disabilities.

  • Lymphatic filariasis, commonly known as elephantiasis, is a neglected tropical disease. Infection occurs when filarial parasites are transmitted to humans through mosquitoes. Infection is usually acquired in childhood causing hidden damage to the lymphatic system.

  • Onchocerciasis – or “river blindness” – is a parasitic disease caused by the filarial worm Onchocerca volvulus transmitted by repeated bites of infected blackflies (Simulium spp.). These blackflies breed along fast-flowing rivers and streams, close to remote villages located near fertile land where people rely on agriculture.

  • Rabies is a viral zoonotic disease that causes progressive and fatal inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. Clinically, it has two forms: Furious rabies – characterized by hyperactivity and hallucinations. Paralytic rabies – characterized by paralysis and coma. Although fatal once clinical signs appear, rabies is entirely avoidable; vaccines, medicines and technologies have long been available to prevent death from rabies. Nevertheless, rabies still kills tens of thousands of people each year. Of these cases, approximately 99% are acquired from the bite of an infected dog.

  • Schistosomiasis is a disease of poverty that leads to chronic ill-health. Infection is acquired when people come into contact with fresh water infested with the larval forms (cercariae) of parasitic blood flukes, known as schistosomes. The microscopic adult worms live in the veins draining the urinary tract and intestines. Most of the eggs they lay are trapped in the tissues and the body’s reaction to them can cause massive damage.

  • Trachoma is a disease of the eye and the leading infectious cause of blindness worldwide. It is caused by an obligate intracellular bacterium called Chlamydia trachomatis. Infection is transmitted from person to person by direct or indirect transfer of ocular and nasal discharges of infected people; indirect transfer includes carriage on the body of species of flies. Preschool-age children harbour the principal reservoir of infection. Models suggest that an individual requires more than 150 lifetime infections to develop the blinding complications of trachoma.

  • Human African trypanosomiasis (HAT), or sleeping sickness, is caused by trypanosome parasites that are transmitted by tsetse flies. HAT is found only in sub-Saharan Africa. Two subspecies of Trypanosoma brucei cause disease: T. b. gambiense in West and Central Africa, and T. b. rhodesiense in East Africa. This life-threatening disease mostly affects poor rural populations, causing significant harm. Travellers to endemic regions may also be at risk of infection. HAT transmission requires the interaction of humans, tsetse flies and parasite reservoirs (humans, and domestic and wild animals). The animal reservoir is very important in T. b. rhodesiense and less so in T. b. gambiense, although it could explain the long-term endemicity in some…