Texas Medical Center

US and UK do ‘Heavy Lifting’ in Fighting World’s Tropical Diseases

IMPROVING LIVES WORLDWIDE–Peter Hotez, M.D., Ph.D., center, and his staff work to eliminate neglected tropical diseases throughout the world. Hotez, who is dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, says nations with emerging market economies need to step up and help the United States and United Kingdom, who provide most of the global support to fight these diseases.


Despite recent progress, much more needs to be done to combat parasitic and bacterial diseases such as hookworm, snail fever, river blindness, guinea worm, elephantiasis, sleeping sickness and leprosy in developing nations and the United States, according to Peter Hotez, M.D., Ph.D., dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

Hotez makes this case in the newly release second edition of his 2008 book, “Forgotten People, Forgotten Diseases.” He argues that neglected tropical diseases are an important reason populations in Africa, Asia and Central and South America remain caught in a vicious cycle of poverty, stigma and despair.

“Current levels of public funding are not sufficient to achieve complete mass drug administration targets, and there is an overreliance on the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom for support,” Hotez wrote.

“Increasingly we need to look to new wealth from the emerging market economies such as the BRICS nations - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa; the MIST nations – Mexico, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand; and the sovereign wealth of the Middle East.”

In terms of medical research, the United States, mostly through the National Institutes of Health, and European governments, in addition to the Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust, provide most of the global support for research and development, Hotez wrote.

“We need the emerging market economies to step up,” he said.

Hotez said a major development since the publication of the first edition has been the realization that neglected tropical diseases also occur among the poor living in wealthy countries, especially the United States and, to some extent, Europe.

“We have uncovered an extraordinary disease burden from neglected tropical diseases in Texas and adjacent Gulf Coast states, including Chagas disease, congenital cytomegalovirus, dengue, murine typhus, toxocariasis, trichomoniasis and West Nile virus,” Hotez wrote. “Neglected tropical diseases and poverty are inextricably linked – we now have 20 million Americans who live in extreme poverty, including 1.5 million families in the U.S. whose members live on less than $2 per day.”

Hotez is also director of the Sabin Vaccine Institute in Washington, D.C., and directs Texas Children’s Hospital’s Center for Vaccine Awareness and Research, operated in partnership with Baylor College of Medicine’s pediatrics department. He is a fellow in disease and poverty at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, and he co-founded the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases to provide access to essential medicines for millions of people worldwide.