World Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) Day 2023
A letter from CDC Director
January 30, 2023
Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) such as onchocerciasis, trachoma, and lymphatic filariasis affect many of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people, impair physical and cognitive development, and make it difficult for affected individuals to live productive lives. By stripping millions of the opportunity to attain their full health potential, NTDs are a major barrier to global health equity.
Each year on January 30, World NTD Day, we partner with public health officials across the world to call attention to this group of painful, debilitating, disfiguring diseases collectively responsible for sickening more than a billion people globally. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria works alongside the World Health Organization (WHO) and with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to prevent and manage NTDs in endemic partner countries and American territories. We help with surveillance, mass drug administration campaigns, new diagnostic development, and case management.
This year, we are on the precipice of making Guinea worm disease the second disease ever to be eradicated. I am especially excited about the progress being made by the Guinea Worm Eradication Program — started in 1980 by CDC — and led today by the Carter Center. Just 13 human cases of Guinea worm disease were reported in 2022, the lowest number in history, down from approximately 3.5 million human cases in 1986. This program shows us once again the kind of impact that concerted, collaborative public health activities can deliver.
Other ways CDC works with partners around the world to decrease the burden of NTDs include:
- Strengthening diagnostic tools. As NTD programs move closer to control and elimination targets outlined in the WHO NTD Roadmap (2021–2030), diagnostic tools to support the needs of the programs are critical. CDC staff remain heavily engaged in WHO’s Diagnostic Technical Advisory Groups, which endeavor to develop better tools.
- Generating interventions, guidance, and data, and administering trainings to help people suffering from lymphatic filariasis (LF). As part of a long-term collaboration with USAID, CDC offers affected countries technical support in strengthening treatment programs and improving disease surveillance. Prevention of NTDs is just one piece of the global health puzzle. Millions already suffer from the debilitating effects of NTDs such as LF and urgently need treatment and care. CDC offers countries much-needed help with morbidity management and disability prevention programs.
- Developing and validating a multiplex immunoassay that can detect antibodies to more than 30 viral, bacterial, and parasitic disease agents from just a single small blood sample. This test provides a more cost-effective approach to obtain critical public health information, as most surveillance costs are related to sample collection. Since 2012, CDC has worked with partners in over a dozen countries to leverage disease-specific population-based serosurveys by testing for exposure to additional diseases of public health interest.
Given the often-overlooked nature of neglected tropical diseases, it is important to take a moment on January 30, 2023 to call attention to their enduring burden and highlight the progress made and steps still needed to eliminate them. Treatment allows individuals to live productive lives, so this year, let us continue to work together to make the world a healthier, more equitable place.
Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH