Central Asia is still suffering from a post-Soviet economic breakdown that might have contributed to multiple Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) re-emerging in the region, particularly among its most economically disadvantaged groups, according to Dr. Peter Hotez, President of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, and Dr. Ken Alibek of Nazarbayev University in Astana, Kazakhstan, co-authors of the report published in the open-access journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases on Tuesday, Sept. 27th.

Because of deterioration of healthcare services and infrastructure, the five Central Asian countries that are mainly landlocked after being created following the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan - in particular have become even more vulnerable to NTDs.

Among the prevalent diseases profiled in the report, the following was highlighted:

An investigation of rural primary schools in southwestern Kyrgyzstan discovered that several of the children had at least one soil-transmitted helminth infection. Children with these infections suffer from developmental and cognitive delays resulting in lower school attendance and earning low wages when they are adults. Soil-transmitted helminth infections have been responsible for losses in economic productivity in Uzbekistan, and most likely in other countries in Central Asia.

Most small farms were left without veterinary inspection, following the decentralization of farming and livestock production, resulting in the deterioration of veterinary public health and the increase of zoonotic (animal-borne) infections. In four countries in Central Asia, cystic echinococcosis (tapeworm infection spread by dogs and sheep) has increased at least four times and it believed that it's not usually reported. In addition, there has been a shocking rise in pediatric cases and other zoonotic helminth infections.

Even though there has been a significant reduction in malaria cases being reported as a result of indoor residual spraying and mass drug administration of anti-malaria drugs, a large percentage of individuals in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan continue to be at risk for Plasmodium vivax malaria. In Tajikistan, the malaria epidemic is powered by human migrations from Afghanistan, thwarting efforts to eliminate malaria in neighboring nations.

Dr. Hotez, who is also the director of the Sabin Vaccine Institute & Texas Children's Center for Vaccine Development and was recently named the founding dean of the first national school of tropical medicine, located at Baylor College of Medicine, explained: "There appears to be an overall absence of detailed information on the prevalence of many of these neglected diseases in Central Asia."

In addition, Hotez and Alibek recommend that the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria should take into consideration how to best integrate NTDs into their control and elimination programs in order to help relieve the problems NTDs causes.

Grace Rattue

Tag Cloud