Experts cooperate in fighting NTDs

Experts cooperate in fighting NTDs

Siriraj Hospital experts are calling for increased global collaboration to help end the spread of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).

Apichat Asavamongkolkul, dean of Siriraj Hospital's Faculty of Medicine, said 24% of the world's population is affected by NTDs. Some 70% of dengue fever cases -- one of the most widely reported NTDs globally -- occur in Asia.

In Thailand, dengue fever is considered an endemic disease. Between Jan 1 and Aug 24, a total of 19,380 cases were reported, with 17 fatalities from the disease.

"To bring an end to such an endemic disease, we need to ramp up cooperation across multiple sectors, as well as forge industrial partnerships to generate resources needed to eliminate the disease completely," he said.

Prasit Watanapa, former dean of Siriraj Hospital's Faculty of Medicine, said that as NTDs are mostly found in poor and under-developed areas, they are often ignored by mainstream medical practitioners and pharmaceutical companies.

"Many investors believe investing in such diseases and their treatments won't yield much profit. But to eliminate NTDs, cooperation among worldwide stakeholders will be required, in addition to efforts at the individual level," he said.

Over 20 diseases are categorised as NTDs, including leprosy, lymphatic filariasis and rabies.

Siriraj Hospital recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Drug for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) to find more international partners willing to collaborate on the issue, Dr Apichat said.

He said Thailand is still finding a way to prevent some NTDs, such as tuberculosis and dengue fever.

Currently, Siriraj Hospital is in the process of building global partnerships with stakeholders from other countries where dengue fever is considered endemic, to search for more effective treatments. The government is aiming to eradicate the disease within five years, he said.

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