BU Today, November 2021
Leishmaniasis. Soil-transmitted helminths. Mycetoma. Haven’t heard of them? That’s because they’re 3 of the 20 afflictions classified by the World Health Organization as neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), a group of parasitic, bacterial, and viral diseases that affect close to two billion people worldwide, almost always in impoverished communities. (Among other NTDs are more “famous” ones, like leprosy and rabies.)
These little-known diseases are also the subject of Neglected Tropical Diseases, a Sargent College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences course taught by Malwina Carrion (SPH’11,’22), a Sargent lecturer in health sciences. But how is it that diseases that impact almost one in five people worldwide are considered neglected? Because, Carrion says, their distribution is anything but proportionate.
“These diseases are neglected, in part, because they’re [usually] not fatal,” she explains, but can result in serious side effects, like blindness (trachoma) and permanent disfigurement (lymphatic filariasis). “And by and large, they impact the poorest of the poor, so they don’t get the attention other diseases do, and the people they affect don’t have the resources to advocate for themselves.”