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Some good news from the world of neglected tropical disease control: Researchers from McGill University in Canada have identified the mechanism used by the leishmania parasite to survive in human cells and disable the human immune system. Neglected tropical diseases are a group of thirteen parasitic and bacterial diseases which collectively affect more than a billion people around the world. They include lymphatic filariasis, guinea worm, a range of intestinal worms and leprosy, among others. There are known treatments or preventatives for many of the thirteen diseases, but leishmania is one for which there is no known treatment. The disease is acquired through the bite of a female sandfly, which allows the parasite to enter the bloodstream and suppress immune function. By understanding the mechanism used by the parasite, researchers are hopeful that they can develop a prophylactic treatment that prevents it from taking hold.

In other positive developments, the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Disease Control (GNNTDC) announced at the Clinton Global Initiative its partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to mobilize $30 million dollars from the private and public sectors for neglected tropical disease control in the Americas. The partnership includes technical assistance from the Pan-American Health Organization, the regional arm of the WHO, as well as involvement from GlaxoSmithKline, the Miss Universe Organization, and other partners. It should be noted, of course, that the $30 million represents the amount these organizations are committed to raising (or in the case of the IDB, managing), not the amount of money in hand. Yet this announcement is the first substantive effort among established organizations to tackle the problems of NTDs specifically for the Americas. For that reason, as a start, it is worth our attention.

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