New Progress is Being Made Against Often Overlooked Tropical Diseases

According to a story from New Statesman, the last month has seen a number of new drugs introduced that could have a significant impact on several dangerous tropical diseases, such as Ebola and tuberculosis. While these diseases alongside many others have been known to science for many years, progress in effective treatment has historically been slow, primarily for one reason: these diseases primarily affect the impoverished and poor around the world.

A Failure of Empathy

There still remains an unforgivable hypocrisy in the international order. While most developed countries proclaim that all people should be treated equally and eagerly portray themselves as behaving to this ideal, the reality is much bleaker. At the end of the day, processes of extraction and exploitation that underlie our unsustainable economic system requires that the lives of many millions (if not billions) around the world are treated as disposable. Therefore, treating the diseases that affect the underprivileged and impoverished has routinely been ignored.

A New Hope

But now, finally, in 2019, some progress is being made. A new drug for treating Ebola could dramatically reduce the lethality of this viral disease, cutting the death rate from one in every two to less than one in every ten infected people. In addition, a new drug that works against drug resistant tuberculosis strains has also recently been developed.

Tropical diseases such as sleeping sickness, onchocerciasis, and elephantiasis all experienced a resurgence of cases during the 1980s, but more well known epidemics such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and so on hogged the world’s attention. Many of these lesser known diseases are caused by parasites transferred to humans by biting flies or mosquitoes.

Recent efforts have made a major difference though; for example, only 1,500 cases of sleeping sickness were reported in 2017. Another disease called the Guinea worm, which once affected millions, may soon be entirely eliminated. The key is that successful control programs must be maintained diligently until elimination is achieved. In addition, the societies of the developed world must do a much better job of living up to our ideals and making sure that these devastating diseases are no longer ignored just because of who is impacted by them.


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