World NTD Day: Early Career Grant Research into NTDs

30 Jan 2023
Finding trachoma Credit: Kramoko Bamba / Sightsavers Caption "In Amédékro, Ivory Coast, Children wait in an orderly queue for Dr Sarr Boubacar to screen them for trachoma. He checks the eyes of all of the children for evidence of this potentially blinding neglected tropical disease, which typically affects people in remote or poor areas.  During this activity, almost 2000 children were screened and those with trachoma were given medication to treat the infection.  Importantly, he also trained others in the

For World NTD Day we spoke to a number of our Early Career Grant awardees about why they chose to focus on NTDs in their Early Career Grant research, and what this year’s theme of ‘Act now. Act together. Invest in NTDs’ means to them.

Integrated One Health Research on Schistosomiasis in Ogun State, Nigeria

Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) is a group of diseases affecting and causing a wide range of illnesses and deaths mostly in underdeveloped communities. In bids to increase the knowledge base of these NTDs, I have researched schistosomiasis in a southwestern State, Nigeria.

Schistosomiasis is caused by waterborne parasites; Schistosoma mansoni and Schistosoma haematobium and transmitted to human hosts through snails. It is distributed globally affecting over 250 million people worldwide and over 20 million, chiefly women and children in Nigeria. Transmission between humans occurs via contacts with urine or feces of infected individuals mostly in water bodies where the organism enters and develops in snails. Hence, contact with infected freshwater is the major source of the infection to humans.

One of the major risk factors is socio-cultural beliefs which contributes to the perpetuation of the endemicity of schistosomiasis. Schistosomiasis remains an endemic disease with high prevalence in several communities especially impoverished communities which lack basic amenities. There is a more urgent need for collaborative efforts for interventions and eradication of this disease in alignment with the current advocacy movement to end all NTDs by 2030. Together we can act to put an end to all NTDs, together we can ACT Now.

Dr Abiodun Wahab

RSTMH/NIHR Early Career Grant Awardee 2021

Community-based use of Mesocyclops (Copepods) against Dengue Transmission in Guatemala

'Act now, act together and invest in NTDs' are such powerful words when you realize the great burden that NTDs generate worldwide. From a biology perspective just the interaction between humans, pathogens and vectors could awaken in you a research interest, but when you take part in action against NTDs you get to see first-hand the burden and suffering that NTDs bring to marginated communities.

I chose this area of research, mainly in mosquito borne diseases, initially out of interest of studying such interactions, but later to develop the actions that I can, aimed at reducing the burden of NTDs in my country and other regions.

Mr Carlos Montenegro

RSTMH/NIHR Early Career Grant Awardee 2021

Socio-economic and cultural practices influencing trachoma transmission among residents of Turkana West Sub-County

Is it the disease or the people who are being overlooked? NTDs are preventable if action is taken early. Set aside resources for its eradication.

I chose trachoma because it is a disease that can be prevented with proper hygiene but causes blindness which is irreversible.

Miss Carol Njoroge

RSTMH/ITI Early Caree Grant Awardee 2021

Acceptability and feasibility of genital self-sampling for the diagnosis of female genital schistosomiasis in hard-to-reach communities

We know from our work on cervical cancer that access to genital screening coverage is still low because testing is not done in a way that empowers the most vulnerable populations of women. Supposing their partner is sceptical of clinical care, some of these women have to make a hard choice between visiting the clinic to be screened or keeping their marriages. The RSTMH seed grant helped us to empower communities through self-testing strategies and reduce inequity.

Our women reserve the right to access high-quality reproductive screening services no matter where they live or what lifestyle choices they make. This is something we are passionate about and. obviously. the RSTMH shares the idea that neither poverty nor vulnerability should curtail this inalienable right

Most people do not readily see the connection between poverty and NTDs so they will be surprised to realize that female genital schistosomiasis (FGS) is largely an occupational hazard: women who get infected with FGS do so while trying to engage in economic activities that support their livelihood. 

As we discussed, FGS in an endemic community as part of our community entry protocols, the clinician was quite blunt that as a consequence of low awareness, cases were largely missed by healthcare workers and only detected in older women during an investigation of infertility [because the undetected infection takes away their reproductive right]. That hit hard: I hadn't felt the need for urgent action so strongly like I did on that day.

Dr Emmanuel Timmy Donkoh

RSTMH/NIHR Early Career Grant Awardee 2021

Spatiotemporal Relationships between Dog Bites, Dog Vaccination Coverages, and Dog and Human Rabies, Ghana: Implications for One Health 

My choice of research area, which looks at how well veterinarians and medical professionals are working together to eliminate rabies in Ghana, was largely influenced by the fact that working together, acting promptly and investing in NTDs is the way to go.

As we mark NTD Day this Monday 30 January 2023, let’s remain resolute to act together promptly to eliminate rabies from endemic regions like Africa and Asia where the disease, although preventable, is still claiming precious lives. Let’s invest in NTDs so we can act together in a timely and more effective manner to save more lives and improve well-being.

Dr Eric Odei

RSTMH/NIHR Early Career Grant Awardee 2021

Exploring what has worked and what can be done differently in leprosy control in Nigeria

Even as governments in developing countries are strengthening health systems post-COVID and the world is becoming more aware of one health approach, NTD control programmes should be prioritised because neglected tropical disease (NTD) programmes strengthen health systems through disease surveillance and by training local health workers. We need to act now and not leave NTDs behind in our fight for global health equity and Universal health coverage.

I chose to research leprosy control because growing up in my hometown, I saw how disadvantaged people with leprosy are whenever I passed beside their settlement. After my study, I discovered that leprosy is now neglected among neglected tropical diseases. In order to make progress, the government must improve its commitment to leprosy control and elimination by collaborating with partners to achieve effective and sustainable leprosy control. We need to act now and not leave leprosy behind in our fight for global health equity. 

Mr Gabriel Oke

RSTMH/NIHR Early Career Grant Awardee 2021

A status of cutaneous leishmaniasis and its determinant factors in Arjo Town, Western Ethiopia

Because of its non-fatal nature, cutaneous leishmaniosis is given less attention among the other NTDs. People suffering from the disease living in hard-to-reach and conflict-affected areas share the high brunt of the neglect. Therefore, a holistic and concerted effort is urgently required to expand treatment services for the victims of the disease as closely as possible. 

In order to attain the WHO NTD 2O30 Roadmap, it is vital to ensure no one is left behind in all aspects.

As an awardee of the early career grant who researched cutaneous leishmaniasis, I was able to realize that the disease remains unnoticed in some peripheral districts in the Western part of Ethiopia where insurgencies and conflicts are sustained. These people are still bearing the long neglect and stigmatizing effect of the disease as a result of lack of access to appropriate treatment. This is a tip of an iceberg that may reveal the existence of the same truth in another setting.  

Mr Gemechu Tiruneh Dano

RSTMH/DHSC Early Career Grant Awardee 2020

Mapping the co-distribution patterns and risk factors for schistosomiasis and soil transmitted helminthiasis in some research naive communities in Ekiti

Until recent, advocacy about efforts targeted at controlling NTDs are limited. My recently funded study by RSTMH revealed low prevalence of helminth infections which could be attributed to gains from ongoing investments in mass treatment campaigns.

However, another funded study by ARNTD identified that coverage of medicines and motivation of health workers was negatively impacted during the pandemic. To avoid reversal of gains, there is need for renewed commitment and investments in NTDs control programs. The urgency to act now and together remains vital as countries emerge into the post- pandemic era.

Dr Hammed Mogaji

RSTMH/DHSC Early Career Grant Awardee 2020

Efficacy of long-lasting insecticidal bed nets on Phlebotomine vector of cutaneous leishmaniasis in Sri Lanka: a community intervention trial

All that would be required to prevent the spread of leishmaniasis is public awareness of the disease and public participation in vector control programmes.

Ms Hartawiliyalage Sachee Bhanu Piyasiri

RSTMH/NIHR Early Career Grant Awardee 2021 

Improving Diagnoses and Assessing The Impact of Onchocerciasis Mass Drug Administration (MDA) Programme on the Burden of Scabies in Ghana.

Globalization, with its characteristic free movement of individuals across national and continental borders, would ensure NTDs not only remain a significant health concern for developing countries in the tropics, but eventually become a global health concern.

Scabies remains neglected among the other endemic NTDs in Ghana, with no control programme instituted against it. Diagnosis and treatment of scabies by clinicians in local health facilities is largely empirical and therefore some cases presented at these facilities for care and intervention may be missed. There is the need to train clinicians at these local health facilities to apply a standard criterion to correctly diagnose and provide a true estimation of the burden of scabies disease.

Dr Jubin Osei-Mensah

RSTMH/NIHR Early Career Grant Awardee 2021

Assessing Tetracycline Eye Ointment (TEO) treatment compliance to accelerate Trachoma Elimination in Yobe State, Nigeria 

The approach and delivery of some NTD programmes underestimate the barriers faced by persons affected by NTDs. World NTD Day is a reminder to act now to ensure an inclusive and comprehensive approach to developing and implementing NTD programmes.

Mrs Juliana Amanyi-Enegela

RSTMH/ITI Early Career Grant Awardee 2021

The design and development of a mathematical model using machine learning for the mycetoma treatment outcome prediction

I attempt to contribute to combating NTDs through mathematical modelling and machine learning.

Act together to leave no one behind receiving care and enhancing the wellbeing of the NTDs sufferers.

Mrs Maha Yousif

RSTMH/NIHR Early Career Grant Awardee 2021

Assessing the vulnerability to Chagas disease infection in temporary shelters in rural communities in southern Ecuador: a mixed-methods approach

Investing in NTDs has a much broader impact than the disease itself or its symptoms. Investing in NTDs research and implementation projects addresses poverty, malnourishment, education, gender inequalities, access to proper housing and health services, among other current issues. Acting now is important because the poverty conditions that people at risk of NTDs experience do not improve with time, in fact they aggravate placing them at a bigger risk of infection. Investing in NTDs contributes to the alleviation of global challenges.

I chose to work in the intersection of Chagas disease and the built environment 10 years ago after I participated in a summer research program in southern Ecuador as an architecture student. This was the first time I thought of space in terms of health in a context other than a hospital or health centre and that opened a world of possibilities. First, I was interested in rural housing and vector infestation. Along the years I have developed an interest in different places and spaces like agricultural shelters, community centres as well as the effect of human behaviour within a space in relation to health outcomes. 

Miss Majo Carrasco-Tenezaca

RSTMH/NIHR Early Career Grant Awardee 2021

Impact of the co-existence of onchocerciasis and type 2 diabetes mellitus on their respective disease progressions and severities

NTDs remain a major source of pain and huge economic loss. The situation is continuously aggravated because the most affected now have an upsurge in the number of non-communicable diseases. To salvage the situation, we need multiple skills from multiple people and multiple investments. In order to disarm parasites, we need to Act Now, Act together and invest more.

Dr Moses Samje

RSTMH/DHSC Early Career Grant Awardee 2020

Trachoma and diabetes milletus co-morbidity in the North and Far North regions of Cameroon

Investing in people and essential health services is vital to prevent and eliminate these life threatening infectious diseases.

Ms Nathalie Amvongo Adjia

RSTMH/ITI Early Career Grant Awardee 2020

Assessment of the impact of malaria and schistosomiasis co-infection on the performance of malaria rapid-diagnostic-test among school-aged children in North-Cameroon

I was inspired by a 10-year old girl presenting with pot-belly and bloody urine in Muyenge village (Cameroon) which kindled my interest in schistosomiasis research. While the condition was labeled with witchcraft and ancestral manifestation, I am happy looking back through the lens of time that operational research and the free praziquantel delivery program have played key roles in significantly shrinking the disease burden among school-enrolled children. Indeed, the little girl is now leaving a healthy life, excelling academically and fulfilling her dreams.

However, the exclusion of other at-risk groups from treatment programs maintains in schistosomiasis transmission. Thus, leaving no one behind through the inclusion of adolescence, adults, and non-school-enrolled children in the drug administration payroll will promote health for all and achieve universal health coverage.

Calling on policymakers, funding agencies, researchers, and communities to mobilize concerted efforts, prioritize NTDs research funding, intensify commitment and act now to make this disease a history.

Mr Nkemngo Francis Nongley

RSTMH/DHSC Early Career Grant Awardee 2020

Anxiety and depression among CL and leprosy patients

An integrated approach is much needed for NTD control. This can be done by using skin as an entry point. The majority of the NTDs do have skin manifestations as a primary or secondary involvement. So, The largest organ should be the ground for planning integrated NTD care.

Late diagnosis remain the main problem of leprosy control. The major reasons are poor health seeking and the knowledge gap among health professionals. Every practicing clinician should be equipped with basic knowledge about leprosy diagnosis. This can be done by giving more time for dermatology attachment during undergraduate studies and by arranging CMEs. 

Dr Seid Getahun Abdela

RSTMH/NIHR Early Career Grant Awardee 2021

Spatial distribution and prevalence of porcine cysticercosis among households practicing pig farming in Northern Uganda

Poverty is the main drivers of NTDs among rural communities in developing countries. Studies in Uganda indicate high endemicity of T. solium in rural communities where a high prevalence of epilepsy has been reported due to Neurocysticercosis. Neurocysticercosis (NCC) is a parasitic infection of the brain caused by the larval stage of the pork tapeworm Taenia solium. It is a preventable and treatable disease and occurs primarily in low-income countries where poverty is eminent. NCC can cause a wide range of neurological disorders including epileptic seizures, focal neurological symptoms/signs and headaches. Investing in NTDs will significantly reduce the impact of epilepsy related diseases among the rural communities hence contributing to sustainable development goals.

My research focused on investigating the spatial distribution and prevalence of Taenia solium cysticercosis among pigs in households in Omoro district in Northern Uganda. The aim was to determine the spatial distribution and risk factors for TSC among households practicing pig farming for better planning, control and management of transmission of T. solium parasites in Omoro district, Northern Uganda for sustainable health and economic growth in the region. This study was important because we were able to know the prevalence and risk factors for taenia solium cysticercosis in the region. Act now, Act together and Invest in NTDs!

Dr Simon Peter Alarakol

RSTMH/NIHR Early Career Grant Awardee 2021

The role of gender and other social determinants in access to preventive chemotherapy for Trachoma in Arba Minch District, Ethiopia

The vicious cycle of poverty and NTDs exacerbate the suffering of poor people. The world has set ambitious goals to eliminate poverty. The realization of these goal immensely needs our collective and inclusive efforts, immediate actions and continuous investment on the disease of poverty, NTDs.

Mr Sultan Hussen Hebo

RSTMH/NIHR Early Career Grant Awardee 2021

Demonstration of integrated approach for surveillance of skin neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in western Rajasthan, India

We need to join hands to implement key interventions to reduce the burden of NTDs. Empowering communities and engaging with frontline health workers for delivering scientifically proven interventions could be a game changer.

I chose to work on an integrated approach for skin NTDs as they are conditions associated with poverty and stigma. An approach which looks at the skin conditions together can help cut treatment costs and reduce delays.

Dr Suman Saurabh

RSTMH/NIHR Early Career Grant Awardee 2021

Female Genital Schistosomiasis: Association with cervical cancer in Nigeria

As the world moves toward erasing the sufferings from NTDs in rural communities, now is the time to act collectively by investing to achieve this goal. Every dollar spent brings us closer to the end.

The plight of rural women as regards their reproductive health prompted me into investigating the impact of female genital schistosomiasis with the hope of creating more awareness and eventually leading to its elimination.

Dr Vincent Gyang

RSTMH/NIHR Early Career Grant Awardee 2021

Influence of water, sanitation and hygiene on persistent transmission of urogenital schistosomiasis among preschoolers and school age children in Lindi, Tanzania 

It is more important than ever to invest in the integration of Neglected Tropical Diseases control interventions to reduce the significant morbidity and mortality associated with these diseases and ensures the sustainable control of Neglected Tropical Diseases in endemic countries.

We can defeat Neglected Tropical Diseases and attain sustainable development goal three, "good health and well-being," with the appropriate investment. 

Ms Vivian Mushi

RSTMH/DHSC Early Career Grant Awardee 2020

Knowledge, Attitude and Practice towards Dengue Prevention in Kuala Lumpur and its Association with Lockdown/Movement Control Order in Malaysia

Investment in NTDs would be much appreciated by the world, especially by those in need. Luckily, the world and my country are acting together to fight this oversight disease in various efforts. These virtuous interests will be worthwhile in creating health equity in more sustainable environments.

I chose to work on dengue because many communities still live in dengue-affected areas. Thus, investment in community-based research on dengue is vital and dengue remains the top priority of my country's public health agenda, especially in outbreak situations.

Dr Wathiqah Wahid

RSTMH/NIHR Early Career Grant Awardee 2021