Neglected tropical diseases

A global health emergency

Neglected tropical diseases

A global health emergency

More than one billion people around the world are affected by neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). These are diseases that occur mostly in tropical climates and are caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites, and toxins. Neglected tropical diseases disproportionately affect people who are already vulnerable – whether through poverty, marginalization, geographic location, or living conditions – and cause significant suffering, disability, and death.

What are neglected tropical diseases?

The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified 21 different conditions as NTDs. What these diseases have in common is that they have largely been ignored by the traditional pharmaceutical industry. Simply, pharmaceutical companies have little commercial incentive to develop medicines for people who cannot pay for them. The result is increased suffering, disability, and death – all contributors to cycles of poverty in areas where neglected tropical diseases are found.

Doctor with patient

Our work to end the neglect

DNDi works with public, private, and not-for-profit partners around the world to address the injustice of a lack of effective and patient-friendly treatments for NTDs. Using a bench-to-bedside approach, we collaborate with partners to identify, develop, test, and ensure access to medicines that are safe, effective, and adapted to patients’ needs. We partner with local communities in areas most affected by NTDs, building capacity and sharing resources, so that all people can benefit from the fruits of scientific progress, no matter where they live.

Together with our partners, we are working on over 40 research and development projects, including more than 20 new chemical entities including for several neglected tropical diseases.

Our focus: neglected populations

Neglected tropical diseases impact millions of people worldwide every year – and billions more are at risk. But what does neglected mean? Neglected populations are the people left behind by the profit-driven pharmaceutical R&D system. The diseases that affect these communities get too little attention because the people affected cannot afford the prices that a profit-driven model of pharmaceutical development demands.

Founded in 2003, DNDi works to address this injustice by working in partnership with communities, governments, the pharmaceutical industry, non-profit organizations, universities and healthcare providers. Over the past 20 years, we have shown that this collaborative approach to developing essential medicines at lower cost, without compromising on quality, safety, and efficacy, is effective in both improving treatment with existing drugs and developing new ones for the treatment of neglected diseases.

The economic impact of neglected tropical diseases

Closely tied to poverty, NTDs are often the result of poor living conditions and socioeconomic deprivation, including a lack of access to diagnostics, healthcare, and preventative and curative treatment.

At the same time, NTDs are a major factor locking people and families into poverty. Those diseases that are not fatal often result in long-term morbidity, disability, disfigurement, stigmatization, and loss of earnings, perpetuating the cycle of poverty.

The investment case for adequately addressing neglected tropical diseases is strong. Adequate investment in developing safe and effective treatments for NTDs is urgently needed to save lives and livelihoods – and to end the cycle of poverty perpetuated by diseases that, with the right tools, are both treatable and preventable.

NTDs and the Sustainable Development Goals

Addressing the problem of NTDs is critical to achieving the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The elimination of NTDs is embedded in the SDGs for 2030 under Goal 3: to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages, and specifically target 3.3: to end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and neglected tropical diseases; and combat hepatitis, waterborne diseases, and other communicable diseases by 2030.

NTDs in an era of climate change

Our work today is more important than ever. The WHO has warned that the climate crisis could undo half a century of global health progress as diseases once restricted by lower temperatures become more prevalent and widespread – including NTDs such as dengue, leishmaniasis, sleeping sickness, and river blindness. Responding to the evolving impact of climate change on disease transmission and prevalence is critical to meeting the current and future needs of the world’s most vulnerable populations.

DNDi’s progress towards eliminating NTDs

To date, we have forged partnerships to deliver 13 new treatments for neglected populations, including 8 new treatments for neglected tropical diseases.

Hand holding pill