Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) are a group of diseases that are endemic in 149 countries and are estimated to affect more than 1 billion people, including many children. They predominantly affect impoverished people who live in rural and hard-to-reach areas where access to safe water, sanitation, and essential medicines is lacking. NTDs can cause ongoing severe pain and long-term disability with subsequently stigmatization and social exclusion. It inhibits children to learn and develop to their full potential, and adults to work and support their families economically.
The WHO has prioritised 18 diseases, which are caused by diverse organisms
- bacteria: Buruli ulcer, leprosy (Hansen disease), trachoma and yaws;
- helminths: cysticercosis/taeniasis, dracunculiasis (Guinea worm disease), echinococcosis, foodborne trematodiasis, lymphatic filariasis (Elephantiasis), onchocerciasis (River blindness), schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiases (ascariasis, hookworm infection and trichuriasis);
- protozoa: Chagas disease, Human African trypanosomiasis (Sleeping sickness) and leishmaniasis
- viruses: dengue and chikungunya, and rabies.
Although relatively unknown to the international community, NTDs are a significant contributor to healthy life years lost as a result of either disability or premature death. As published in the Global Burden of Disease study in 2010, the NTD burden (measured in disability-adjusted life years) is greater than that of malaria or tuberculosis, and ranks among the top four most devastating groups of communicable diseases, along with lower respiratory infections, HIV/AIDS, and diarrheal diseases. Among the NTDs, soil-transmitted helminths, leishmaniasis, schistosomiasis, lymphatic filariasis and food-born trematodiasis are the top 5 with highest number of DALY's. While, the top 5 of death rank consists of leishmaniasis, rabies, dengue, schistosomiasis and Chagas disease.
In 2017 WHO listed snakebite envenoming as NTD. Snakebite envenoming is a neglected tropical disease that kills >100,000 people and maims >400,000 people every year. Impoverished populations living in the rural tropics are particularly vulnerable; snakebite envenoming perpetuates the cycle of poverty.