Vaccines are the future in the fight against NTDs

Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are the most common affliction of the world’s poorest people. Thriving in communities that lack access to health services, adequate sanitation and clean water, NTDs blind, disable and disfigure, trapping families in a cycle of poverty and disease. Nearly one in six people globally has at least one of these 17 diseases.

Many of the most common NTDs can be treated and prevented for less than 50 cents per person per year. Pharmaceutical companies, governments and global health organizations – united in part by the London Declaration on NTDs, signed five years ago this week – have worked together to increase access to medicine. In 2015 alone, pharmaceutical companies donated 2.5 billion tablets and have pledged millions more to help control and eliminate NTDs by 2020. By the end of 2015, an estimated 62 percent of people in need of treatment received medicine.

The approach of treating an entire population, rather than just those infected, has helped reduce, and in some cases even eliminate, the impact of some NTDs. Just last year, four countries in the Western Pacific Region eliminated lymphatic filariasis, an extremely painful and disfiguring disease transmitted by mosquitos that can cause swelling of the limbs and genitals. In the Americas, onchocerciasis, also known as river blindness, has been eliminated from all but one region on the border of Venezuela and Brazil. Millions of people are now able to live free from disability and unnecessary suffering.

But efforts to control other NTDs lag. Rates of schistosomiasis, also known as “snail fever,” have increased and the major anthelminthic medicines have so far not had an impact on reducing the global burden of hookworm due to variable efficacy and high rates of reinfection.

New tools such as vaccines have the potential to support greater health outcomes in the most cost-effective manner possible for diseases that cannot be eliminated through treatment alone. AGP DSC_0629-1

At Sabin, we are leading efforts to develop vaccines to combat NTDs affecting the world’s poorest people. Among them is a vaccine candidate for schistosomiasis that is currently in clinical trials. Genital schistosomiasis can create additional health risks, as women with the disease are three to four times more likely to contract HIV. To make matters worse, there is a growing concern that drug resistance could increase. A schistosomiasis vaccine could would not only help control the disease but also be a cost-effective tool for reducing HIV in Africa. Sabin is also developing vaccines for hookworm infection and Chagas disease, among others.

The evidence supporting expanded vaccine research and immunization efforts against NTDs is clear, but this effort needs greater support. Increased funding is needed in order to help accelerate the development and testing of new vaccines, advance products currently in development and create a sustainable path to deliver them to people in need worldwide. Greater investment today will lay the foundation for vaccines to tackle neglected tropical diseases.


5 Years Later – 5 Years Closer

Five years ago today – shortly after the launch of the END7 campaign – global partners gathered at the Royal College of Physicians to endorse the London Declaration on NTDs: a set of sweeping commitments to support the global effort to control, eliminate and eradicate neglected tropical diseases. The London Declaration launched a historic partnership between pharmaceutical companies, aid agencies, national governments and NGOs that today supports the delivery of over 1.5 billion NTD treatments per year.

The END7 campaign has been part of the success story of the London Declaration since the beginning, providing a global platform to connect ordinary citizens with meaningful ways to contribute to the fight against NTDs. To celebrate the past five years of progress, here are five ways END7 supporters have helped the world get closer to the end of NTDs:

  1. One million dollars – and counting: Ending the suffering caused by NTDs will require significant financial resources. While NTD treatment and prevention is a “best buy” in global health with an incredible return on investment compared to its low cost, the number of people at risk of these disfiguring and debilitating diseases means that endemic countries and global partners will have to mobilize funding to deliver medicine donated by pharmaceutical companies. END7 supporters have donated more than $1,000,000. These generous donations have funded treatment and prevention programs in more than a dozen countries, training health workers, producing new educational resources and expanding the reach of mass drug administration programs.
  2. Making NTDs go viral: END7’s “How to Shock a Celebrity” video featuring our famous friends Eddie Redmayne, Emily Blunt, Tom Felton, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Tom Hollander and Priyanka Chopra has been viewed more than seven million times across YouTube, Facebook and other social media platforms. For many viewers, the video was their first introduction to the dramatic effects of NTDs – and a call-to-action. The video has helped raise significant funds for NTD treatment and recruited dedicated END7 supporters to be long-term advocates for this cause.
  3. Building the next generation of global health leaders: Students at universities in more than fifteen countries have started END7 chapters and taken leadership positions with the campaign through the END7 Student Advisory Board and Campus Leaders Council. These young leaders have raised more than $115,000 for NTD treatment, taught courses and led research projects, used campus and local media to raise awareness and enthusiastically supported END7 advocacy efforts urging national and international leaders to support the control and elimination effort. Through the annual END7 Student Advocacy Day, student advocates have met with more than 70 members of the U.S. Congress and heard from inspiring speakers like Global Health Corps founder Barbara Bush about the importance of grassroots advocacy for global health.
  4. Racing towards the end: Last summer, a unique partnership with the Hogwarts Running Club leveraged the power of fandom for good. More than 3,500 people signed up to run the “Fantastic Beasts 5k” in their own communities to support END7 in advance of the release of “Fantastic Beasts and Where the Find Them,” the Harry Potter prequel starring END7 supporter Eddie Redmayne. These athletic fans raised nearly $100,000 to support NTD treatment and prevention programs – accelerating progress towards the end of NTDs!
  5. Putting NTDs on the map – and the calendar: END7 supporters have taken the messages of our campaign to every corner of the globe. In 2016, they celebrated the first NTD Awareness Week, an effort driven by END7 student supporters and echoed by leading global health organizations. The second annual NTD Awareness Week kicks off today – follow #NTDWeek on social media for live updates from END7 supporters around the world!

We are amazed at the creativity and dedication of the END7 community and excited to see what we can accomplish together as we look forward to the end of NTDs!

END7 at Anahuac University North Campus: What We’ve Accomplished, Where We’re Going

Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a diverse group of infectious diseases that subsist in tropical and subtropical climates through 149 countries. Currently, more than 1.4 billion people worldwide are affected by at least one of the 17 NTDs recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO). NTDs are called “neglected” because while they have been largely wiped out of the most developed areas, they persist in the poorest and most marginalized societies. If left untreated, NTDs can cause substantial illness and suffering, hampering children from attending to school and reducing adult economic productivity. As a result, families, communities and countries become trapped in a cycle of disease and poverty.

Anahuac University, where I am a student, is a private Mexican university that was founded in 1964 with a clear mission: “To be a university community that contributes and promotes the process of integral formation of the people who for their excellent and innovative professional and cultural preparation of international level, for their profound human and moral formation inspired by the perennial values ​​of Christian humanism, and for its genuine social consciousness, are leaders of positive action that promote the development of the human being and society.

Aerial view of the showroom, library and main terrace

Aerial view of the showroom, library and main terrace

END7 team Mexico has been active at Anahuac University North Campus through since I was accepted to the END7 Campus Leaders Council. I am a postgraduate student of the Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery and student of the Master on Health Sciences with special interest on NTDs, Global Health and Humanitarian Aid.

Ending the neglect of NTDs at Anahuac University is the priority of the Anahuac University Neglected Tropical Diseases Interest Group, which is in the process of formation with at least 50 internal and external members recruited, including students and professors from across several disciplines. Many of them have been already working on advocacy, awareness, education, fundraising and research to fight NTDs with END7. Thereby, we present a brief summary of activities that have been done during our first six months of work:


  • Almost 100 signatures were collected for the USAID NTD Program 10th anniversary petition


Martin Careaga and Rodrigo Díaz from END7 team Mexico

Martin Careaga and Rodrigo Díaz from END7 team Mexico

  • One amateur soccer team with twenty members was suited up with personalized uniforms designed by Manuel Leyva to support END7 through 2016-2017 seasons. Each player’s jersey was emblazoned with the name of a NTD and the hashtag #EndTheNeglect. This action generated interest and curiosity among soccer players and their families in a league with nearly 400 registered players
  • One article about END7 and the END7 Campus Leaders Council was published at Anahuac University social media


  • A workshop for twelve high school students was given in coordination with Diego Russo at Thomas Jefferson School Emerald Zone campus
  • Three workshops for 125 pre-medical students were given in coordination with Joanne Joloy at Anahuac University North and South campus
  • A review article about American trypanosomiasis entitled “Chagas disease: Current perspectives on a forgotten disease” was published in coordination with Giorgio Franyuti at Revista Médica del Hospital General de México


  • Almost three hundred and fifty dollars were collected for the year-end fundraising push


Workshop for 60 pre-medical students at Anahuac University South Campus

Workshop for 60 pre-medical students at Anahuac University South Campus

  • One line of experimental research about Trypanosoma cruzi has been active with Diego Alvarez, tutored by Ana María Fernández Presas, at the Ultrastructural Parasitic Laboratory in the Microbiology and Parasitology Department of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Master’s degree thesis)
  • One line of research about Leishmania mexicana has been active with Rosalino Vázquez, tutored by Laila Gutiérrez Kobeh, at the Experimental Medicine Department of the Hospital General de México (Doctorate’s degree thesis)


It is clear that the control, elimination and eradication of NTDs is a team effort. Having concluded the first six months of work and having beaten the challenges of a new startup project, now with full support of Tomás Barrientos Fortes, our Health Sciences Faculty director, we are committed to expanding our community and magnifying our response. Currently, we are working on scientific paper in collaboration with a team led by Gerald Oyeki, another END7 Campus Leaders Council member from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. We hope for a 2017 full of alliances and collaborations.

We are eager to continue making progress and are now planning for NTD Awareness Week. Since 2012, each year on January 30 we commemorate the London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases, which was inspired by the WHO’s 2020 Roadmap on NTDs. The London Declaration is special because it has been a keystone in the fight against NTDs, as several public and private sectors committed themselves to enhance a better and accelerated response by working together. Therefore, we celebrate NTD Awareness Week during the week following the London Declaration anniversary by spreading the word to build awareness and fundraise worldwide. We are planning to publish two pieces in a local newspaper and post on social media summarizing the END7 campaign’s achievements and the relevance of NTDs Awareness Week. We are also planning two events led by two of our strongest members. Our first event will be an acoustic night with Lalo Onti, a young Mexican musician on the rise who is lending his voice to fundraise for END7, is planned for Saturday, February 4 at La Peña del Sapo Cancionero, a venue with capacity for one hundred audience members. We are also organizing a week-long fundraiser on the “Responde A.C.” website, a Non-Governmental Organization led by Joanne Joloy.

Many students and professors think that they cannot make a big difference in the fight against NTDs if their area of expertise isn’t related to a medical career, but that’s not true, because these diseases doesn’t discriminate and every extra hand matters. Each of us has different abilities and skills, and by joining them, we will have more tools to tackle the burden of NTDs and lead people who suffer from them to a stronger and healthier future in our road to control, eliminate and eradicate several of them by 2020. So please, don’t hesitate in joining us, your contribution to this work can help save the life of someone affected by NTDs.

As a medical surgeon with interest and passion for infectious diseases, Diego Alvarez is currently studying a Master’s degree of Health Sciences at Anahuac University North Campus as he does laboratory research on Chagas disease at the Department of Microbiology and Parasitology of the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Also he has been working for several years on Antimicrobial Resistance at the Health Sciences Faculty of the Anahuac University North Campus. Today he works at the Coordination of Medical Services of the Mexican Red Cross PAR Huixquilucan Office and is a member of the END7 Campus Leaders Council and of the Young Researchers Track as well as the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

Ending Suffering from Trachoma, One Surgery at a Time

Originally posted by the Morbidity Management and Disability Prevention (MMDP) Project.  

“Before the surgery, I was always in pain and I couldn’t see properly. I was afraid to go outside. I rarely socialized. We had a good rainy season this year, but I wasn’t able to harvest anything.”

Christine Korogo was describing the effects of trachoma, an infectious eye disease caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. In the final stage, scarring causes the eyelid to turn inward and the lashes to scrape the cornea. If untreated the condition, called trichiasis, leads to blindness – and, all too often, loss of livelihood.

When I met Christine, her face was covered in a sterile blue drape, just one eye showing through. As a surgeon delicately operated, Christine conversed and laughed.

Villagers in Basnéré, Burkina Faso, are screened for trichiasis. Those found to have the blinding condition were offered free surgery. mmdp

Yaaba (grandmother) Christine is 67 years old and lives with her disabled husband, a co-wife, and elderly relatives in a village in Burkina Faso. Her five surviving children have grown and moved away. She and her husband scrape by on remittances from their migrant children, but making ends meet is a struggle. The prospect of seeing more clearly and being able to farm filled Christine with hope.

Surgery for trichiasis involves restoring the eyelid to the normal position. Christine’s surgery was provided by the Burkina Faso Ministry of Health, with support from the Morbidity Management and Disability Prevention (MMDP) Project, a multi-country project funded by the United States Agency for International Development and managed by Helen Keller International.

The tent in which Christine’s surgery took place. Inside is a simple operating room with a small table for instruments, an operating table, equipment for sterilizing instruments, and a surgeon’s stool.

The MMDP Project helps countries provide trichiasis surgery for populations in need. But even more important than the number of surgeries done is the quality of the surgeries. The MMDP Project’s mission is to ensure that patients receive the highest quality surgery possible. It does so by supporting rigorous training and certification for trichiasis surgeons, ensuring that surgical practices meet World Health Organization (WHO) standards, and by checking surgical outcomes to assure that quality controls are working.

During surgery campaigns, medical teams set up temporary operating rooms close to affected populations, whether in local clinics, schools, or special tents. The surgeon is typically a local Ministry of Health technician who has been trained by a national expert.

Christine rests after her surgery. The bandages will be taken off the next day. Stitches in her eyelids will remain in place for a week.

Trachoma, the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness, has long plagued areas where sanitation and water for washing are scarce. Today, 1.9 million people are blind or visually impaired because of trachoma, and 42 countries need interventions to eliminate the disease, according to WHO.

But a major battle against trachoma is making progress. In one of the largest public health endeavors in human history, WHO is leading an international alliance of Ministries of Health, nongovernmental organizations, research institutions and donors working to eliminate trachoma by 2020. Since 2011, the number of people at risk of trachoma has fallen nearly 40%, from 325 million to 200 million.

Through a national program that combines mass treatment with the antibiotic azithromycin and surgery for individuals with trichiasis, Burkina Faso – with support from USAID — has dramatically lowered trachoma prevalence and is well on its way to meeting WHO criteria for elimination. In the process, the country’s health system is growing stronger, with a newly trained cadre of health professionals prepared to provide high-quality, sight-preserving surgery for emerging trichiasis cases.

In her village of Basnéré, Christine got the news that a surgery team was coming from a town crier. The next day, inside a tent in a shady grove, Christine had the simple, quality surgery that will prevent her from going blind – and move her country and the world one step closer to ending the age-old scourge of trachoma.

John Uniack Davis is the West Africa Regional Director for Helen Keller International. He gathered impressions for this blog while observing a trichiasis surgery campaign in Burkina Faso in October 2016. Photos were taken by staff from the HKI Burkina Faso office.