One Health for Neglected Tropical Diseases

Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a group of communicable diseases that thrive, mainly, in low-resource populations and are typically found in tropical climates. Their transmission and sustained prevalence are given by both geographical and social factors. The World Health Organization (WHO) currently focuses on 20 priority diseases.

Although each disease requires an individually tailored approach, current measures are in urgent need of a paradigm shift from disease-specific interventions to holistic cross-cutting approaches coordinating with adjacent disciplines. This paradigm shift is the One Health approach. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US, One Health is a collaborative, multisectoral, and transdisciplinary approach—working at the local, regional, national, and global levels—with the goal of achieving optimal health outcomes recognizing the interconnection between people, animals, plants, and their shared environment.

To exemplify the feasibility and effectiveness of the One Health approach in addressing NTDs, I will describe three diseases: Zoonotic visceral leishmaniasis, dracunculiasis and rabies. Zoonotic visceral leishmaniasis is sustained by its main vertebrate reservoir, the dog, making this NTD a good example of the importance of adopting a One Health approach for disease surveillance and control in Europe and Latin America. The case of dracunculiasis (or Guinea-worm disease), further emphasised its importance when after getting close to eradication in Chad, an animal reservoir of parasites in dogs increased the disease incidence. Rabies control has proven that mass canine vaccination programs effectively reduced both canine and human rabies to minimal levels and decreased the economic burden in South-East Asia.

Author(s): Dr. Pia Marino Tinajero

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