Two hundred million people in 10 Central African countries are at risk of river blindness, a parasitic infection that causes eye and skin disease. Half of them have gone untreated by the “wonder drug” ivermectin—awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize for its potential to eliminate river blindness—because another parasite, Loa loa, can cause serious or fatal side effects following ivermectin treatment. A new mobile phone-based diagnostic technology, recently validated in Cameroon, presents an opportunity to remove this last major obstacle and permit safe treatment in areas with Loa loa. Our partnership will seize this opportunity, first, by expanding access to the technology; second, by resolving uncertainty about the extent of disease overlap through mapping; and third, by initiating data-driven disease elimination programs across all the populations currently excluded from treatment. This work will clear a path towards WHO's goal of eliminating river blindness.
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2021 Swift Grant Awardee
Together, Task Force for Global Health’s Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy, Neglected Tropical Diseases Support Center, and Focus Area for Compassion and Ethics were selected as a 2021 Swift Grant awardee. The Swift Grants fund provides small grants to Bold Solutions Network members for collaborative projects.
These three Task Force for Global Health organizations will work collaboratively to implement a human rights and advocacy program for people affected by neglected tropical diseases (NTD), based off an existing model for people affected by leprosy. The program will train advocates to mobilize communities, advocate for patients, and reduce stigma around NTDs.
To reduce the spread of COVID-19 after the global pandemic was declared, Neglected Tropical Diseases programs in much of the world halted community-based treatment activities. This was a justifiable public health measure, but it prevented tens of millions of people from receiving preventive chemotherapy for disabling NTDs. In addition, concern grew that long-term delays in treatment could threaten the significant progress made to reduce the global burden of NTDs over the past two decades. Project partners quickly pivoted to work with the World Health Organization and country partners to develop guidance for resuming NTD programs safely and to document that this guidance could be used effectively in the field. As a result, Neglected Tropical Diseases programs in many countries have been able to resume safe distribution of drugs to combat NTDs.