Communities of practice
5 Mar 2010
Source: Media reports
Ecuador has become the second country in the Americas to halt the transmission of onchocerciasis (river blindness), according to officials of the Ministry of Health of Ecuador and the Onchocerciasis Elimination Program in the Americas (OEPA). An estimated 100 million people worldwide are at risk of contracting the disease, of whom half a million in live in Latin America. (Most of the others are in Africa.) In Ecuador the single focus of the disease has been in the northern part of Esmeraldas Province, where mass drug administration with ivermectin has been taking place since 1990. In-depth epidemiological studies have now shown that transmission of the parasite has been stopped. OEPA is also seeking to stop transmission of onchocerciasis in Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, ,Mexico and Venezuela by 2012. (Further details are available from the Carter Centre, which is the sponsoring agency for OEPA.)
The head of WHO’s global task force on cholera control, Claire-Lise Chaignat, says there are “high expectations” for a new oral cholera vaccine produced in India. Interviewed for a news story in the Bulletin of WHO, Dr Chaignat said, “It is good when countries with high cholera incidence can produce their own vaccine. But a cholera vaccine is only an additional measure, not a substitute for safe water sources, proper sanitation and working with communities to encourage behavioural change to diminish the risks of infection”. Following positive interim results in a phase III clinical trial, the vaccine is already being marketed in India under the name Shanchol. It is still in the pipeline for pre-qualification by WHO.
Médicins sans Frontières has called upon the government of President Barrack Obama to expand the range of diseases included in its neglected diseases initiative. Sophie Delaunay, Executive Director of MSF-USA described the initiative as “an unprecedented step toward addressing diseases that affect more than a billion of the poorest, most marginalized people in the world”. “Unfortunately,” she continued, “unless changes are made to the proposed policy, the exclusion of the deadliest neglected tropical diseases will mean, once again, a lost opportunity to save lives.” Particular omissions highlighted by MSF are Buruli ulcer and the three diseases caused by kinetoplastid parasites – leishmaniasis, sleeping sickness (human African trypanosomiasis) and Chagas disease.
A new resource, launched by BIO Ventures for Global Health (BVGH), features information on 16 neglected diseases of the developing world. Described as “the Neglected Disease Pipeline”, the resource provides information on: the background to each disease, existing drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics, medicines still needed, potential markets and the current product pipeline. BVGH describes itself as “a non-profit organization whose mission is to save lives by accelerating the development of novel biotechnology-based drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics to address the unmet medical needs of the developing world”. It has taken on the administration of the “intellectual property pool” intended to facilitate the creation of new treatments for the infectious diseases of poverty that was established by GlaxoSmithKline in March 2009, as reported on TropIKA.net News. The pool is discussed in a recent BVGH podcast.
A public meeting on new ideas to improve access to medicines has taken place in London organized by the London International Development Centre (LIDC), the Africa All Party Parliamentary Group and the Royal African Society. Participants included representatives from GlaxoSmithKline, the George Institute and the Gates Foundation. The cautiously optimistic conclusion was that with innovative new approaches, partnerships and more resources access to medicines could be improved. The importance of sharing knowledge was stressed. A report is available from LIDC.
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