Rise in Tropical Diseases Blamed on Turmoil in Mideast, N. Africa

Vidushi Sinha

Years of conflict and political struggle have caused massive human and animal migrations in the Middle East and North Africa. Now a new study blames these upheavals for the spread or re-emergence of a variety of tropical diseases - some previously eliminated or controlled - affecting an estimated 65 million people.

A family of illnesses called Neglected Tropical Diseases [NTDs] adds to the troubles in the Middle East and North Africa. These diseases traditionally affect poor countries, but the new study says NTDs also are prevalent in many middle-income countries, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Yemen.

“Cutaneous leishmanaisis, Dengue, Rift Valley fever, Crimean Congo hemorrhagic fever,” said Dr. Peter Hotez of the National School of Tropical Medicine, listing some of the diseases.

Hotez, lead researcher of the study, said he and his colleagues found a huge hidden burden of tropical diseases in the region.

“Neglected Tropical Diseases disproportionately affect Egypt and Yemen. So these two countries have some of the greatest number of cases of intestinal worm infections, elephantiasis, and schistosomiasis, as well as diseases such as fascioliasis. I would like to call them the most important diseases that you have never heard of,” said Hotez.

Researchers also were surprised by the reemergence and prevalence of infections like cutaneous leishmaniasis, caused by a sandfly, and infections transmitted from animals to humans, such as brucellosis - a bacterial infection originating in cattle and sheep.

They say diseases of the poor are not a priority in conflict-ridden nations where community and public health systems often have broken down.

Hotez said the immediate strategy for controlling the rising infection rate is to step up mass drug administration efforts, especially for schistosomiasis, intestinal helminthes infections, and leprosy.  

Dr. Julie Jacobson is senior program officer at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a  leading advocate of a global campaign to eliminate NTDs. She said the research points to a public health problem seen in many conflict-ridden countries, and it underscores the need for vigilance.

“People see most health problems as being too onerous, too difficult and unsolvable - and here we have some very solvable problems with not a huge price tag," said Jacobson. "It is very cost effective. Fifty cents per person, per year, on average will take care of seven of these diseases, and a lot of drugs are donated for the program outside of that.”

The elimination of NTDs also will require the development of new drugs, and new vaccines. Hotez said he is hopeful funds will be found to support more research in this area, especially on drugs to treat some of the deadliest and most prevalent of the tropical diseases, such as dengue fever and leishmanaisis.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs