Disregard of neurological impairments associated with neglected tropical diseases in Africa.
Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) affect people in the bottom billion poorest in the world. These diseases are concentrated in rural areas, conflict zones and urban slums in Africa and other tropical areas. While the World Health Organization recognizes seventeen priority NTDs, the list of conditions present in Africa and elsewhere that are eligible to be classified as NTDs is much longer. Although NTDs are generally marginalized, their associated neurological burden has been almost completely disregarded. However, reports indicate that trichuriasis, schistosomiasis and hookworm infection, among others, cause impairments in memory and cognition, negatively affecting school attendance rates and educational performance particularly among children, as well as agricultural productivity among adults. Consequently, the neurological impairments have substantial influence on education and economic productivity, thus aggravating and perpetuating poverty in affected societies. However, inadequate research, policy and public health attention has been paid to the neurological burdens associated with NTDs. In order to appropriately address these burdens, we recommend the development of policy interventions that focus on the following areas: (i) the introduction of training programs to develop the capacity of scientists and clinicians in research, diagnostic and treatment approaches (ii) the establishment of competitive research grant schemes to fund cutting-edge research into these neurological impairments, and (iii) the development of public health interventions to improve community awareness of the NTD-associated neurological problems, possibly enhancing disease prevention and expediting treatment.