Monday, October 10, 2005

International Health: Cash plea to fight Africa's forgotten diseases

Medicine and health care prove more complicated than a 30 second sound bite, again. This is an article in the Guardian, but a link to the original journal article may be found at the PLoS Medicine site.

In a paper published today, [scientists] said that a focus by governments and charities on the big three tropical diseases - HIV, malaria and tuberculosis - had left millions of the poorest people in Africa without treatment for a range of illnesses.
The neglected diseases, which include schistosomiasis, river blindness, ascariasis, elephantiasis and trachoma, affect more than 750 million people and kill at least 500,000 every year.

Writing in the open-access journal Public Library of Science, Medicine, the researchers said that treating all of these illnesses with a cocktail of four readily available drugs would cost less than 50 cents (28p) a person a year. They claimed that dealing with the forgotten diseases would reduce susceptibility to malaria and help to make socio-economic improvements for those in poverty, as well as save lives.

"Instead of 95% of money donated going to malaria, HIV and TB, it would only need to be 90% and we could do an awful lot of cost-effective treatment and help towards making poverty history."

Prof Molyneux said that reducing the incidence of worms and parasites would help control more life-threatening diseases. People with intestinal worms are known to be nine times more likely to contract malaria because their immune systems are weakened by the lesser disease. He added that eradicating schistosomiasis would halve the incidence of malaria.

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