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Leading global health organisations receive $46.7 million from Gates Foundation to join forces against neglected tropical diseases

Fighting tropical diseases

New grants will support efforts to integrate programmes - <em>News Release - 19 December 2006</em>

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Schistosomiasis Control Initiative

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

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For immediate release
Tuesday 19 December 2006

Issued jointly by Imperial College London, the Task Force for Child Survival, the International Trachoma Initiative, the Carter Centre and the World Health Organisation

The fight against neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) received a major boost today with the announcement of five grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation totalling $46.7 million. The grants will support efforts to coordinate and integrate programmes to fight key neglected diseases in developing countries.

NTDs such as trachoma and hookworm cause severe disability among the world’s poorest people and keep generations in a cycle of poverty. In Africa, more than 500 million people are affected by NTDs, and globally, more than two billion individuals are infected with one or more of the parasites or bacteria that cause NTDs.

Grant money will be used to coordinate programmes that are tackling tropical diseasesThe overall goal of the new grants is to develop evidence that controlling NTDs in an integrated way has a greater impact on these diseases than the disease-specific strategies currently in use. The five projects aim to demonstrate that an integrated approach improves the performance and efficiency of programmes, enhances their coverage, promotes sustainability, and reduces the burden caused by NTDs in Africa. This integrated approach is expected to improve the health of hundreds of thousands of people.

Professor Alan Fenwick , who established the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative at Imperial College London, said: "This is an exciting development because we have all started to work together and now we can take an extra step forward to show how much we can achieve. USAID has also recently allocated funds to NTD control, and this will allow the partners to improve the quality of life of millions of people with this complementary funding. Hopefully other donors will offer support so that we can eventually eliminate some of these nasty diseases from the continent and even globally."

Purchasing and delivering drugs to control five of the most devastating NTDs could cost as little as $0.50 per person per year if existing drug delivery programmes are brought together. The diseases are trachoma (blinding eye infection), soil-transmitted helminths (hookworm, ascaris, trichuris), onchocerciasis (river blindness), schistosomiasis (snail fever), and lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis).

Today, most control and treatment programmes for neglected tropical diseases focus on a single disease, but people in tropical regions usually face more than one serious disease threat, said Dr. Regina Rabinovich, director of Infectious Diseases at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. An integrated approach that addresses multiple diseases at once could reach those in need more efficiently and help save more lives.

The diseases can be treated safely and effectively with single-dose drugs, given once or twice a year to populations at risk. Studies during the past decade have shown that such low-cost interventions can greatly reduce the burden of NTDs, especially when introduced alongside measures to improve water and sanitation and to control the organisms that transmit disease. The new grants address the greatest remaining challenge to bring together all the different disease-specific interventions already underway and expand programmes to reach all who are in need.

The organisations receiving the new funds are: the Task Force for Child Survival and Development, Atlanta, Georgia ($11.7 million); the International Trachoma Initiative, New York ($10 million); The Carter Center, Atlanta, Georgia ($10 million); the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative at Imperial College London ($10 million); and the World Health Organisation ($5 million).

The five projects are the result of two years of work by the grantees to ensure that each produces the best possible evidence about integration, and that they work together in close coordination.

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For further information please contact:

Laura Gallagher
Press Office
Imperial College London
Tel: +44 (0)207 594 6702
Email: L.Gallagher@imperial.ac.uk

Notes to editors:

1. Details of the grants are as follows:

a. The Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (www.schisto.org) will use its $10 million grant to support its core activities at Imperial College London, and to develop and implement a health package that can deliver NTD drugs in Tanzania in the best possible regime. The grant will also be used to co-fund the USAID/NTD control project which will encourage integration of measures to combat NTDs in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Niger, and Uganda. Up to 40 million people will receive the package of drugs over the next few years, improving their quality of life.
Contact:
Laura Gallagher
Tel: +44 (0)207 594 6702
Mob: +44 (0)7803 886 248

L.Gallagher@imperial.ac.uk

b. The Task Force for Child Survival and Development (www.taskforce.org) will use its $11.7 million grant to coordinate operational research aimed at ensuring the success of the ongoing Global Programme to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis (LF). Currently delivering anti-parasite drugs donated by the pharmaceutical industry to over 500 million people yearly in 46 of the 83 LF-endemic countries, this 6-year old Programme faces important challenges to assuring long-term programme success and LF elimination. Grant funds will support coordinated research initiatives in more than 20 countries to refine epidemiologic and immunologic tools for enhancing programmematic decision-making, to evaluate potential supplementary vector control and therapeutic strategies for use in especially difficult areas, and to identify innovative, sustainable financing strategies for LF- and NTD-focused global health programmes.
Contact
Dr. Eric Ottesen
Tel: +1 404-687-5604
eottesen@taskforce.org

c. The International Trachoma Initiative (www.trachoma.org) will use its $10 million grant to increase the sustainability and scalability of national neglected disease control programmes on a country and global level. ITI and its partners will conduct a study to determine the efficacy of an integrated disease treatment programme in Mali for trachoma and lymphatic filariasis (LF) compared to single disease initiatives. This aim of this project is to provide evidence of the effectiveness of combined interventions, as well as the costs, benefits, and impact of integration on the health system and target population. It will benefit other health initiatives by providing a model for future integration efforts. Concurrently, ITI will strengthen advocacy and resource development efforts on behalf of trachoma and other core neglected diseases.
Contact
Dennis Da Costa
Tel: 212-490-6460, ext. 34
ddacosta@trachoma.org

d. The Carter Center (www.cartercenter.org) will use its $10 million grant to expand its integrated disease prevention assistance in central Nigeria, which currently includes four neglected tropical diseases: river blindness, lymphatic filariasis, schistosomiasis, and trachoma, all of which can be controlled or eliminated by safe and effective medic ines combined with health education. The Center will expand the scope of its activities to add Vitamin A supplementation for young children to the distribution system, as well as furthe r pioneer distribution of long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets to prevent both lymphatic filariasis and malaria. In southeastern Nigeria, where infection with the parasite Loa loa limits treatment options for lymphatic filariasis, the Center will study the feasibility of eliminating lymphatic filariasis with long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets, and integrating with the malaria programme. The Center plans to measure the sustainability, cost-effectiveness, and impact of its disease integration efforts, while promoting expansion of integrated efforts throughout Nigeria. The Center will work in collaboration with the Nigeria Ministry of Health, Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Contact
Emily Staub
Tel: +1-404-420-5126
Mob: +1-678-595-034
emily.staub@emory.edu

e. The World Health Organisation (www.who.int) will use its $5 million grant to support and coordinate integration of NTD programmes on a global level. It aims to set standards and provide support for integration globally, including a global platform to assess progress, an integrated data management, monitoring and evaluation system, a renewed effort to improve access to currently non-donated drugs, and the development of common tools such as the recently released guide Preventive Chemotherapy in Human Helminthiasis.
Contact
Dick Thompson
Tel: +41-22-791-2684
Mobile: +41-79-475-5475
thompsond@who.int

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