The wide-ranging discussion highlighted:
- The need for more R&D: Diseases, like leishmaniasis and Chagas, take time to develop so a key part of elimination is understanding who is most at risk, measuring effective treatments and then being able to deploy this at scale. All NTDs share one common denominator, a lack of data, which becomes crucial in the last phase of elimination where sustained research is needed to complete the job.
- Sustainability: In the field, researchers work across different diseases in the same regions, transferring knowledge from one group to another. The wider research community needs to ensure that the expertise of these hyperspecialised technicians does not vanish and that these skills are passed onto the next generation of researchers. While surveillance is a key component of elimination, there can’t be a one-size-fits-all solution as it cannot assess the epidemiological specifics and treatments for certain diseases like Chagas, leishmaniasis, schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiases.
- Good health creates good wealth: Eliminating schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiases has already boosted GDP in four countries so the long-term economic benefits speak for themselves.
The WHO identified 20 diseases as endemic in 150 countries and these have been officially listed as NTDs. A resolution to eliminate these diseases was set out in the WHO’s 2020 Roadmap, and the new 2030 Roadmap builds on that work to deliver individual programmes to reduce the burden of these NTDs. While major progress has been made in the last decade, panellists agreed that more work was needed in terms of diagnostics, tools and surveillance in the current political and economic climate.
Watch the discussion