A recurring theme of the NTD sessions at this year’s ECCMID conference was the relationship between NTDs, HIV and STDs. Figures for each seem to overlap, as do some of the physical signs.
Each complements the other’s existence. For example, an NTD’s (such as schistosomiasis) symptoms make target areas (in this case epithelium) vulnerable and as a result ease the path of sexually transmitted disease (STDs) and HIV agents into the body. And with that, the person becomes coinfected by more than one dangerous illness.
It’s a growing problem in some regions, particularly among travelers and migrants. People become infected with schistosomiasis when worm forms of the snail parasite penetrate their skin during contact with infested water. These then live in blood vessels where they grow and reproduce more schistosomes, or eggs. Eggs either pass through as waste or get trapped in the body, causing immune reactions and progressive damage to organs.
Kjetland described the current situation of one target of the schistosomes – the reproductive system. “In the last two decades,” she said, “after the first six community-based studies on this “gyneacological Schistosoma haematobium”, WHO has recommended that this form of the disease should be referred to as urogenital schistosomiasis.”
Last week we reported that the fight against neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) was many-fold – now an addition to the third D, diagnostics, literally lives up to that description. Chemists from the University of Texas at Austin have drawn inspiration from the art of origami to create a three-dimensional paper sensor that could test for diseases such as malaria and HIV for less than 10 pence.
The fight against neglected tropical diseases is many-fold but whilst there is much talk about drug development and delivery, another integral component of treating NTDs is the third D: diagnostics. It’s all very well having the drugs in the right place at the right time but if you don’t know who needs treating then they are no good.