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Neglected tropical diseases burden those overseas, but travelers also at risk
Date:12/25/2007

Though little known to most Americans, lymphatic filariasis, trachoma, leishmaniasis, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis and other so-called neglected tropical diseases are responsible for severe health burdens, especially among the worlds poorest people. Together, it is estimated that these illnesses, most of which are caused by worms or other parasites, rank sixth among all conditions worldwide in robbing people of quality of life and life itself through disability or premature death, respectively. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, has a long-standing, robust program of research and clinical trials devoted to better understanding and combating neglected tropical diseases, most notably those caused by parasites. In 2006, NIAID devoted $117 million to these projects, which are carried out both in the United States and in countries where the diseases are endemic.

While most sufferers of neglected tropical diseases reside permanently in tropical regions, Americans and other travelers to such areas may also be exposed to these disease-causing organisms. To better gauge illnesses following travel to the tropics and subtropics, the GeoSentinel Surveillance Network, a network of travel/tropical medicine clinics on six continents, was established in 1995. A new paper by NIAID scientist Thomas Nutman, M.D., and colleagues reviews network data collected between 1997 and 2004 to determine demographic and travel characteristics of travelers diagnosed with parasitic worm (filarial) infections. The researchers found that filarial infections responsible for such diseases as onchocerciasis (river blindness), lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis) and loiasis (African eyeworm illness) made up 271 (0.62 percent) of the 43,722 medical conditions reported to the network during that time period. Additionally, the data showed that immigrants from filarial-endemic regions were most likely to come to th
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Contact: Anne A. Oplinger
niaidnews@niaid.nih.gov
301-402-1663
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Source:Eurekalert

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