Friday, December 28, 2007

Why "neglected tropical diseases" are going to bite us in the *$&#

Malaria. Chagas. Filariasis. Dengue fever. Onchocerchiasis. Trachoma. Cholera. Leishmaniasis. Yaws. Leprosy.

Neglected tropical diseases. You certainly don't want to get them (I have had at least one). And they are not as neglected as they used to be with some money being dedicated to them (e.g. from the Gates Foundation) and their own PLoS journal dedicated to them and even famous people blogging about them. The World Health Organization pushes for them to get more attention.

But given that these diseases kill and injure BILLIONS of people and cause untold amounts of economic damage, they clearly still do not get what they deserve, in terms of research dollars and drug development efforts, etc.

Well, listen up people in the non-tropical (a.k.a. developed) world. Even if the "let's help others" line does not light your fire, you better start worrying about these diseases. That is because many of these diseases are on the march in part due to global warming and will likely soon be a bigger part of our life in the developed world.

There has been lots in the press and web about this but it still seems to get ignored which is why I am blogging about it here. For example see
The thing that reminded me of this issue was a 12/23/07 New York Times article discussing the spread of the tropical virus that causes chikungunya into Europe for the first time.

So, next time you are lingering in Berlin or New York or Moscow and you feel a weird itch. Or have a fever that just won't go away. Or have strange swellings where you never had them before. Don't just look for diseases that were once common wherever you are. Start to think about things like Dengue (my favorite, since I have had it). And maybe just maybe, you should start to worry about these things BEFORE you get them. And support efforts to make these diseases not so neglected.

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