Schistosomiasis, strongyloidiasis and Chagas disease: the leading imported Neglected Tropical Diseases in Italy.
BACKGROUND: In recent years, an increasing number of individuals affected by Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) has been observed in Italy, due to migration, international travels, and climate changes. Reliable data on the current NTD epidemiology in Italy and the health system preparedness on this issue are not available.
METHODS: We report the results of a survey on selected NTDs (schistosomiasis, strongyloidiasis, echinococcosis, Chagas disease, leishmaniasis, cysticercosis, filariasis, and scabies) in nine Italian sentinel centres, in order to investigate their occurence throughout the country and to identify which ones are a priority for public health interventions, development of protocols for case management, and training activities. To explore the preparedness of the centres, we investigate the availability of specific diagnostic tools and drugs, needed for the management of the most common NTDs. We also reviewed and summarized the available national policies, recommendations and guidelines on NTDs in Italy.
RESULTS: Overall, 4,123 NTDs cases were diagnosed in nine Italian centres within a seven-year period (2011-2017). Schistosomiasis and strongyloidiasis were the most common NTDs, accounting for about one-third each of all the diagnosed cases, followed by Chagas disease. The number of cases showed a significant trend to increase over time, mainly due to foreign-born subjects. Serology for Schistosoma spp and Strongyloides stercoralis was available in six and five centres, respectively. Agar plate stool culture for S. stercoralis was available in three sites. Ivermectin and praziquantel were always available in six centres. Six national policies, recommendations and guidelines documents were available, but for the most part, they are not fully implemented yet.
CONCLUSIONS: This survey showed how some NTDs, such as schistosomiasis and strongyloidiasis, are becoming more common in Italy, due to multiple components. A list of seven key actions were proposed, in order to improve diagnosis, management and control of NTDs in Italy.