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BCM - Baylor College of Medicine

Giving life to possible

National School of Tropical Medicine

Neglected Tropical Diseases

The neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a group of 17 most common chronic parasitic and other infectious diseases, such as hookworm, schistosomiasis, river blindness, leishmaniasis and Chagas disease, which represent the most common infections in the developing countries of Africa, Asia and the Americas.

Almost all of the world's poor are affected by at least one NTD, and these conditions have been shown to be a stealth reason why the bottom billion cannot escape poverty. This is especially true for "the bottom billion," the 1.4 billion people who live below the World Bank's poverty level of US$1.25 per day. In addition to the NTDs, malaria remains a devastating tropical infection in the world's low- and middle-income countries with an estimated 500 million cases annually and more than 800,000 deaths.

There are also high rates of neglected infections of poverty (NIoPs) in the United States, especially among African American and Hispanic Americans living on the Gulf Coast, the border with Mexico, Appalachia and U.S. inner cities.

Among the most endemic "tropical" infections are Chagas disease, cysticercosis and toxocariasis. U.S. citizens are also increasingly exposed to foreign NTDs due to expanded globalization. The enormous impact of NTDs and NIoPs on global health and economics is dramatically disproportionate to the existence of NTD/NIoP-specific research and educational opportunities.

Affected Populations

Who is affected by the Neglected Tropical Diseases and Neglected Infections of Poverty?

Three populations are especially vulnerable to tropical infections and the NTDs and NIoPs:

Children suffer from developmental delays, growth failure and reductions in intelligence and cognitive abilities, especially from the high prevalence NTDs such as hookworm and other soil-transmitted helminthiases and schistosomiasis. Malaria ranks among the top three killers of children under the age of five.

Women suffer as a result of tropical infections during pregnancy, including hookworm, malaria and Chagas disease with harmful effects for both mother and child. Female genital schistosomiasis is a devastating NTD among both girls and women and a stealth co-factor in Africa's HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Adult Agricultural Workers suffer from diminished productivity as a result of lymphatic filariasis (LF), onchocerciasis, hookworm anemia, and Chagas disease. India alone loses almost $1 billion in economic losses annually from LF.