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Mapping NTDs Is Critical For Controlling, Treating Diseases

Mapping neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) is vital for efforts to control and treat diseases, write the authors of an editorial published Tuesday in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, ANI/Sindh Today reports (7/28).

“Accurate and up-to-date maps of different NTDs can help improve the precision of decision-making in NTD control,” write Peter Hotez of George Washington University Medical Center, Simon Brooker of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Donald Bundy of the World Bank in the editorial that examines new diagnostic and mapping technologies. “They can help increase the reliability of estimates of disease burden … The maps can also establish a baseline against which to measure the impact of NTD control efforts. Finally, they can provide an important planning tool for national control programmes” (7/27).

“Without such maps, the journey of NTD control will be difficult,” the authors note, according to ANI/Sindh Today (7/28).

The editorial describes an ongoing project called the Global Atlas of Helminth Infection (GAHI), which offers “an open-access, global information resource on the distribution of STH [soil-transmitted helminth infections] and schistosomiasis, with the specific aims of 1) describing the global distribution and prevalence of infection of each species and 2) highlighting geographical areas for which further survey information is required.” Beginning on August 12, visitors to the GAHI website will be able to access the information compiled by the project, the editorial notes. 

Specifically, users will be able to access: “[t]hree types of maps … for every country where these infections occur: (i) a Survey Data Map showing the prevalence of infection based on survey data; (ii) a Predictive Risk Map showing the probability that infection prevalence warrants MDA [mass drug administration], according to recommended WHO thresholds; and (iii) a Control Planning Map showing which districts require MDA treatment or where further surveys would be helpful in defining risk,” according to the authors, who add that a similar project for developing a Global Atlas of Trachoma is also underway.

“The recent commitment of the Obama administration to establish the Global Health Initiative, which is expected to increase to over US$100 million annually for neglected tropical disease (NTD) control, provides the most significant investment and opportunity for the global control of NTDs to date,” the authors write. “These investments, together with commitments by the British Department for International Development, the World Bank, and several key private philanthropies, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, must be guided by a strong evidence-based approach,” the editorial notes.

They conclude: “Considerable effort is required to develop an integrated NTD atlas, necessitating cooperation and collaboration of the different NTD communities. We hope the Global Atlas of Helminth Infection will encourage this interaction and help progress towards an open access Global Atlas of NTDs” (7/27).

FDA Public Hearing To Review Ways To Strengthen Production Of Medical Products For NTDs

PharmaTimes reports that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is looking into ways to boost company interest in developing medical products “used in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of neglected tropical diseases.”

On September 22, the FDA will hold a public hearing to discuss “perceived challenges in securing pre-market approval for neglected tropical disease products; the benefits or otherwise of orphan status, priority review vouchers and humanitarian device programmes; new strategies for international co-operation, consultation and collaboration in the review and approval of neglected disease products; and training or guidance needed to support product development in the field,” according to PharmaTimes.

An FDA notice announcing the hearing indicates that “Section 740 of the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriation Act of 2010 directs the agency to set up a review group that will recommend to the FDA Commissioner ‘appropriate preclinical studies, trial design, regulatory approaches and optimal solutions’ to encourage the development of neglected tropical disease products,” PharmaTimes adds. “The 22 September hearing will help to inform this process, the agency says,” according to the news service (Mansell, 7/27).

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