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The iconic 125-year-old Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton near San Jose, California, is facing the threat of closure...
Recent results from the Curiosity Mars rover have helped scientists formulate a plan for the next phase of its mission...
A new, remarkably powerful drug that cripples the hepatitis C virus (HCV) came to market last week, but it sells for $...
In pretoothbrush populations, gumlines would often be marred by a thick, visible crust of calcium phosphate, food...
Evolutionary biologists have long studied how the Mexican tetra, a drab fish that lives in rivers and creeks but has...
Victorian astronomers spent countless hours laboriously charting the positions of stars in the sky. Such sky mapping,...
In an ambitious project to study 1000 years of sickness and health, researchers are excavating the graveyard of the now...
Stefan Behnisch has won awards for designing science labs and other buildings that are smart, sustainable, and...
- 12 December 2013 1:00 pm , Vol. 342 , #6164
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Two-For-One Special on Diseases
31 January 2006 (All day)
STOCKHOLM--Public health efforts in the developing world are missing out on a bargain, say a group of researchers and health policy leaders. They argue that the ramped-up efforts against the Big Three--HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria--will yield far bigger dividends if they are coupled with an attack on so-called neglected diseases such as hookworm, schistosomiasis, and leishmaniasis. Those parasites make their victims more susceptible to the Big Three, say scientists, who add that fighting both categories requires a similar public health infrastructure.
Maladies such as lymphatic filariasis and onchocerciasis take their toll through stunted growth, anemia, and blindness, contributing to widespread developmental and learning delays. Such forgotten infections "are the world's leading cause of growth deficits," yet they would be relatively cheap to treat, says Peter Hotez, a parasitologist at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. In a paper published 30 January in the Public Library of Science Medicine, Hotez and his colleagues argue that treating the 500 million people afflicted with one or more of these neglected diseases would cost just 40 cents per person per year, compared to more than $20 per person per year for fighting malaria. "It's the best buy in public health at the moment," says Alan Fenwick, a schistosomiasis researcher at Imperial College London and an author on the paper.
At the same time, the authors argue, such treatments might boost the ongoing fight against the Big Three. They point to a growing body of evidence that suggests that populations infected with multiple parasites are more susceptible to other diseases--including the big killers. For example, Hotez points to a study in Senegal that found that deworming medicines reduced malaria cases by 90%. And distribution systems for deworming drugs can also distribute antimalarial bed nets, he says.
The team hopes to put its ideas into practice soon. At a meeting here yesterday and today sponsored by the U.N. Millennium Project--an advisory body that aims to reduce poverty, hunger, and disease worldwide--researchers, representatives of donor organizations, pharmaceutical companies, and public health leaders from eight African countries met to devise a "quick impact initiative" that would create national programs to tackle malaria and the neglected diseases together.
Getting drugs where they are most needed is the greatest challenge, says William Lin of Johnson & Johnson. Lin is in charge of his company's effort to donate 50 million doses of mebendazole, used to treat hookworm and other helminths. "I've asked them to ramp up production," he says. "I don't want to be left at the end of the year with stores in the warehouse--and egg on my face."