30 January—World Neglected Tropical Diseases Day

© World NTD Day

The World Neglected Tropical Diseases Day on 30 January under the motto UNITE.ACT.ELIMINATE draws attention to neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and the suffering they cause. More than one billion people worldwide are at risk of serious illness, disfigurement, disability and even death from NTDs. Worm diseases such as river blindness, schistosomiasis, eye worm disease and viral diseases such as dengue fever are just a few well-known examples of this diverse group of diseases. Researchers at the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF) are tackling these problems, with a particular focus on Africa, and are developing diagnostic and therapeutic tools for diseases caused by parasitic threadworms, among other things.

For media enquiries on the topics listed below and other topics in the DZIF research focus area Neglected Tropical Diseases, please contact the DZIF experts named in each case. Please also cc all enquiries to presse@dzif.de and mention the DZIF as the source when citing it in interviews and texts, including online.

Schistosomiasis—responsible for the most years of life lost to disease among NTDs

Schistosomiasis is an infection caused by blood flukes of the genus Schistosoma, which develop in freshwater snails and are acquired transcutaneously by humans while swimming or wading in contaminated freshwater. More than 230 million people are infected and a further 600 million are at risk. As the second most common parasitic tropical disease in the world after malaria, schistosomiasis causes the highest disease burden of all NTDs measured in terms of disability-adjusted life years. The worms can cause severe damage to various organs such as the liver and lead to urogenital diseases that impair fertility in women. Together with colleagues at the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Diseases in Hamburg, DZIF researchers are developing new interventions and diagnostic tools for the treatment of chronic forms of schistosomiasis.

Dr. Daniela Fusco
Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine, Hamburg

Novel antibiotics against worm diseases

River blindness (onchocerciasis) is an infection of the cornea caused by the larvae of filariae. The infection leads to loss of sight in one in twenty patients and blindness in one in a hundred. The risk of infection with these filariae is particularly high along rivers, where the parasite's vector, the blackfly, is found. Around 21 million people are infected. DZIF scientists have developed the antibiotic corallopyronin A, which is effective against bacteria that live in the filariae and are vital for them.

Prof. Dr Achim Hörauf
University Hospital Bonn

Fighting the African eye worm

Another example of a worm disease that is widespread in the Central African region is loiasis, also known as African eye worm disease. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that around 13 million people are currently infected with the Loa loa parasite that causes the disease. In clinical trials, DZIF scientists are working with colleagues from the Centre de Recherches Médicales de Lambaréné (CERMEL) in Gabon, an African partner institution of the DZIF, to investigate whether certain broad-spectrum drugs against threadworms—including corallopyronin A—can successfully combat the parasite.

Prof. Dr Michael Ramharter
Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine and University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg

Evaluating the broad-spectrum efficacy of anthelmintics in clinical trials

As part of the eWHORM project, African and European partners—including the DZIF and its African partner institutions—are joining forces to implement the WHO's 2021-2030 Roadmap for Neglected Tropical Diseases and reduce the burden of disease associated with worm infections. Using a state-of-the-art adaptive study design, the efficacy of certain antibiotics will be investigated for simultaneous evaluation against onchocerciasis, loiasis, mansonellosis and trichuriasis (whipworm infection).

Prof. Dr Marc Hübner
University Hospital Bonn

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