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Medical News & Perspectives |

Attention Sought for Neglected Diseases

Rebecca Voelker
JAMA. 2009;301(17):1755-1756. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.563.
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Some of the most wrenching treatment decisions facing clinicians in developing nations involve patients with such neglected tropical diseases as human African trypanosomiasis, often called sleeping sickness. Diagnosis and treatment may include painful lumbar puncture and injections of toxic melarsoprol, an arsenic derivative that causes intense burning sensations and, in about 5% who take it, fatal encephalopathy.

“Doctors and nurses in the field are forced to care for patients with treatments that are largely archaic, toxic, ineffective; some are unaffordable and some are nonexistent,” said Sophie Delaunay, executive director of the US section of the humanitarian medical group Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF; Doctors Without Borders), as she described the challenges of neglected tropical diseases.

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The kinetoplastid diseases—Chagas disease, human African trypanosomiasis, and leishmaniasis—lack safe, effective treatments as well as sufficient research and development funding. A recent study showed they received $125 million in funding in 2007, compared with nearly $2 billion for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.



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