Modern medicine can boast a number of triumphs against infectious disease over the past century; Smallpox killed around 500 million people in the 20th Century before its eradication in 1979 as a result of vaccination. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative began in 1988 and has achieved considerable success, with eradication complete in the Americas, Europe, the Indo-West Pacific and China. Last year, only 223 cases of Polio were reported globally. It comes as no surprise that those diseases against which we have had the greatest success are those that affect developed nations. Increasing attention is now being paid to the many debilitating and often deadly infectious diseases, which continue to affect billions of people in developing nations; a category of diseases known as NTDS (neglected tropical diseases).
Neglect originated from a general disregard for developing countries, as money was poured into research in laboratories in the wealthy developed world. More recently, as some tropical diseases such as malaria, HIV and tuberculosis have taken centre stage, many other diseases have been left by the wayside. Neglected tropical diseases principally affect the world’s poorest people, who seldom have access to the medical treatment available, and for many diseases, limited research has meant we still lack medicines altogether. The World Health Organisation (WHO) lists 17 NTDs, including Ascariasis, Schistomiasis, Leishmaniasis, Rabies, Dengue Fever, Chagas Dsease, Trachoma and Triachriasis. In sub-saharan Africa, the impact of these diseases together is comparable to Malaria and tuberculosis . In 2012, leaders of several pharmaceutical giants met to discuss NTDs, and promised to increase investment in their treatment and prevention. One year on and promises have been kept; $1.2 billion in treatments for the selected 10 NTDs was delivered, an increase of $150 million on 2011. Successes in the battle against several NTDs such as Dracunculiasis, Leprosy and Onchocerciasis have now been achieved, and campaigns are underway against Trachoma and Lymphatic filariasis.