The theme for this year’s three-part series is neglected tropical diseases, which comprise a set of 20 diseases afflicting more than 1.9 billion people worldwide. These individuals are the poorest of the poor and mostly reside in areas of low-income countries that lack safe water and adequate sanitation.
A King's College collaboration with the Cambridge-Africa Programme and Wellcome Trust-Cambridge Centre for Global Health Research
Topic: What does it take to develop a (rapid) diagnostic for a neglected tropical disease?
Format & Date: Seminar; July 10, 2018
Speaker: Prof. Govert van Dam, Leiden University
Talk title: Development and use of diagnostics for schistosomiasis: the long walk from the lab to the field
Abstract: Schistosomiasis, also known as bilharzia or snail fever, is a blood fluke infecting ~290m people worldwide, who predominantly live in sub-Saharan Africa. There is renewed interest in improving the accuracy of schistosomiasis diagnosis in efforts to control infection-related morbidity and progress towards pathogen elimination. In this talk, I will discuss the development and now widespread validation/use of two diagnostics for schistosomiasis—the circulating cathodic antigen (CCA) and the circulating anodic antigen (CAA) tests. The CCA is a visual, field-friendly, point-of-care urine test based on well-studied schistosome antigen detection (molecules specific to the gut of the worm). This point-of-care test simplifies the process of diagnosing intestinal schistosomiasis. Currently, stool samples are collected; slides are prepared; and highly trained laboratory technicians count eggs in the stool using light microscopy. CCA enables the diagnosis of intestinal schistosomiasis (Schistosoma mansoni) with a single drop of urine. The CAA is a quantitative, ultra-sensitive, reader-assisted assay using phosphorescent upconverting phosphor nanoparticles (a type of readable, lab-based photoluminescent tags). CAA can detect all schistosome species using human blood serum or urine. The specificity of CAA with its ability to detect antigens at extremely low levels enables the identification of light infections even detecting a single worm. CAA has been transformed into a robust, stable test by using dried antibodies to detect the worm antigens. Because of this stability, CAA can be used in several low-resource settings in Africa. CAA can rapidly identify foci of low prevalence/intensity of all human schistosome infections. Recent field evaluations of CAA when compared to conventional diagnostics show that in very low pathogen transmission settings in China, South-East Asia, Africa and Brazil, prevalence of active schistosome infections by egg-count light microscopy may be underestimated by up to 10-fold. CCA and CAA therefore present themselves as highly accurate diagnostic tools, with valuable application in morbidity control and pathogen elimination settings as well as clinical care and experimental research studies.
Topic: Access to medicines for neglected tropical diseases
Format: Panel discussion/debate
Date: February 8, 2018
Prof. Don Bundy – London School of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene; Children’s Investment Fund
Prof. Peter Hotez – Dean for the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine, USA; Professor of Tropical Pediatrics
Mr. Andy Wright – Vice President of Global Health and Access Programmes at GlaxoSmithKline
Dr. Jutta Reinhard-Rupp – Head of Merck Global Health Institute
Mr. Julien Potet – Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Policy advisor for NTDs & vaccines in MSF’s Access to Medicine Campaign
Dr. Fiona Godlee – Editor-in-Chief of the British Medical Journal
Topic: How do we eliminate a disease of poverty?
Format & Date: Seminar; October 5, 2017
Speaker: Prof. David Molyneux, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine
Talk title: Neglected Tropical Diseases: the challenges of elimination in a changing world
Abstract: Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) have been included within the Health Targets of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, recognizing their impact as impediments to health of the poorest 1-2 billion. Over the past decade there has been increased resources to implement NTD programmes and for both basic and operational research reflecting the need for new tools but also the need to address the challenges of increasing uptake of donated medicines in complex and diverse settings. The World Health Organization created a Roadmap in 2012 to achieve certain targets for elimination and eradication by 2020. The challenges that elimination programmes face and the research required to accelerate progress will be discussed in the light of geopolitical events, environmental change, competition for health resources as health policy changes and new biological information—all factors which impact on rapidly approaching targets. The elimination “end game” and eradication defined as “zero global incidence of infection” poses a unique challenge, i.e. how do we prove a negative? This target must be achieved in remote, conflict affected and geographically difficult regions with limited health services and communication. This talk will discuss the success to date, the research required to address the challenges and the current global health policy environment.
Dr. Goylette Chami
Junior Research Fellow in Medical Sciences