Why should researchers study a group of diseases that mainly affect people in developing countries? It’s about reducing human suffering, says MRC PhD student Abi Perrin, but it’s also because studying these ever-changing foe present intellectual challenges, and could lead to insights into other types of infectious disease.
One billion people are currently suffering from a neglected tropical disease (NTD). These infectious diseases, such as sleeping sickness, elephantiasis and leprosy, are associated with poverty and tend to affect people in developing countries. They have a huge effect on people’s physical and emotional wellbeing, as they are often disabling, disfiguring and stigmatised. And because they prevent people from working and receiving education, NTDs ultimately perpetuate the cycle of poverty.
The worms, parasites, bacteria and viruses which cause NTDs are some of our most ancient enemies. There are references to NTDs in historical documents thousands of years old, including all major religious texts. For example, in Exodus — the second book of the Old Testament — the Israelites are attacked by ‘firey serpents’ as they leave Egypt, and historians believe that these terrible creatures represent parasitic worms. Read more