In a press release dated April 2, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced that it had partnered with the World Bank, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) and a number of other groups to fight neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).

NTDs are parasitic and bacterial types of infections that affect one in every six people worldwide. These infections not only cause a person to become ill, but can also disable or disfigure a person who has been infected. The infections are also more commonly found in poorer populations because they lack a great deal of proper health care services and preventative measures.

In 2012, the London Declaration brought together 13 pharmaceutical companies as well as a number of global health organizations, private organizations and other donors to help fight NTDs. These pharmaceutical companies donated medications to fight 10 diseases: river blindness, Guinea worm, leprosy, lymphatic filariasis, blinding trachoma, schistosomiasis, soil-transmitted helminthes, Chagas disease, visceral leishmaniasis and sleeping sickness.

As part of the April announcement, a report was released regarding the progress that has been made over the past two years. Margaret Chan, the director-general of the World Health Organization, discussed the “tremendous progress” that the pharmaceutical companies’ donations had made.

Additionally, the announcement included the introduction of new partners that are together committing to donate over $240 million to go towards fighting soil-transmitted helminthes, a type of intestinal worm that is wreaking havoc in impoverished countries. Intestinal worms are often found in areas that have only limited access to both clean water and sanitation services and today these worms infect many children.

The CIFF has pledged to donate $50 million to the cause, while the World Bank Group has pledged to give $120 million to fight NTDs. The World Bank Group’s donation from the International Development Association (IDA) will also go towards providing deworming treatments at schools. In the past, the World Bank Group has participated in the fight against NTDs through the African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control.

Jamie Cooper-Hohn, Chair of CIFF, said in the announcement, “CIFF is now committing an additional US $50 million over the next five years to implement large-scale systematic approaches to deworming in a number of countries, with the hope that, ultimately, we can break the transmission of worms and achieve the vision of: every child everywhere, free from worms forever.”

The newest drug donors include Bayer, Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Novartis, Eisai, Gilead and Pfizer. These companies are concentrating their energy on research and development and are also working on implementing new treatment techniques.

In light of the new partnerships, Christopher Viehbacher, CEO of Sanofi said, “Industry partners are eager to work together to build on longstanding efforts to combat NTDs, develop new drugs and diagnostics and go beyond drug donations to ensure life-saving and preventative solutions meet those in need.” Viehbacher went on to say, “We are committed to improving the lives of millions of people who suffer from these horrific diseases and helping boost communities and economies.”

The goal of these groups is to both control and eliminate 10 NTDs by 2020. These new partnerships hope to work together to best combat the effects of NTDs and to one day, rid the world of them altogether.

– Julie Guacci

Sources: The Gates Foundation, Reuters, Science World Report
Photo: BioNews Texas