'Poor man's diseases' rampant in India: WHO

'Poor man's diseases' rampant in India: WHO

“Of the world’s poorest 2.7 billion people (defined as those who live on less than $ 2.00 a day), more than 1 billion are affected by one or more neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), says the report.

Though country-wide estimates are not provided, India is expected to have a majority of the 1 billion NTD-patients given the high incidence of poverty coupled with poor sanitary and hygiene conditions.The diseases which are prevalent in rural areas and urban slums include leishmaniasis, lymphatic filariasis, and trachoma.

Of the 17 NTDs, nine are caused by microparasites which have simple life-cycles and a tendency to replicate within the host. The remaining eight NTDs are caused by macroparasites which have complex life-cycles involving intermediate and reservoir hosts and a tendency not to replicate in the definitive human host.

“Today, neglected tropical diseases have their breeding grounds in the places left furthest behind by socio-economic progress, where substandard housing, lack of access to safe water and sanitation, filthy environments, and abundant insects and other vectors contribute to efficient transmission of infection,” says Dr Margaret Chan, WHO’s director general.

“Close companions of poverty, these diseases also anchor large populations in poverty,” she argued, suggesting that they cause not only long-term disabilities but result in economic misery.

The so-called poor man’s diseases “include a range of diseases caused by individual pathogens, and groups of conditions caused by related microbial species”.
They are spread by animal hosts such as dogs, fish or by vectors such as mosquitoes, blackflies, snails, bugs and common house flies.

The report calls for five public-health strategies on a war footing. They include provision of safe water, sanitation and hygiene which are often absent in India’s rural and crowded urban slums.

Though the government has stepped up its health-related activities to prevent and control neglected tropical diseases, the continued poor sanitation and hygiene conditions are a cause for concern.