One billion and counting: neglected infectious diseases

One billion people suffer from one or more infectious diseases that you may not even have heard of. Elephantiasis (Lymphatic filariasis), River blindness (onchocerciasis) and Kala-azar black fever (leishmaniasis) to name just a few. ‘Neglected infectious diseases’ such as these are not often deadly but  can nevertheless cause tremendous suffering.

Unlike other better-known infectious diseases, neglected infectious diseases typically don’t attract much investment for the development of treatments. Trachoma  is an example – a bacterial infection of the eye that causes blindness and for which 40 million people are in need of treatment. The infection causes scarring on the inside of the eye, which can turn the eyelids inwards so that the eyelashes rub against the eye.




















The above map shows the prevalence of Trachoma across the world. The size of each country is related to the number of trachoma cases. The burden clearly falls on Africa and South-East Asia. Treatments costing only 50p would go a long way to eliminating the disease.

Trachoma’s treatability, though, is not exceptional: treatments for many other neglected diseases already exist but for these treatments to do any good, funding is needed for better drug delivery and for the development of improved methods of diagnosis.

Find out more

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have a designated Neglected Infectious Diseases strategy.

The trachoma map is from the World Mapper website, an unusual and informative collection of maps where territories are re-sized according to the subject of interest.

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