Daniel Nelson

Checking for signs of trachoma in Ethiopia

Checking for signs of trachoma in Ethiopia

Image by RTI Fights NTDs

Noma must be included in the World Health Organization’s list of Neglected Tropical Diseases, a London meeting on NTDs was told this week.

Noma is an infectious but non-contagious bacterial disease that starts as an inflammation of the gums, quickly destroys bone and tissue and often leads to grotesque disfigurement. Medecins Sans Frontieres says it kills 90 per cent of those affected. 

“Getting Noma recognised on WHO’s NTD list is important as it will release funds and technical support to address the disease,” Benoit de Gryse, a senior MSF official told OneWorld. 

“We’re making a great effort to get Noma recognised as an NTD through advocacy initiatives, publication of studies in large medical journals ... presentations at medical conferences, and through organising screenings of our documentary, Restoring Dignity, across Nigeria and worldwide.”                                                                                                            

Noma affects about 400,000 people, mostly under-10s, and is easily and cheaply curable, according to the film, screened at an International Society for Neglected Tropical Diseases Festival at the Wellcome Trust.

It is most prevalent in the “Africa noma belt” stretching from Senegal to Ethiopia, but is so little known that a British doctor told the launch that though he had trained in tropical diseases he had not heard of it until he met patients in northern Nigeria: “When I first saw it I was shocked – and I was also shocked that I’d never heard of it before.”

Adolphe Fotso , a doctor who is the MSF medical coordinator in Nigeria, said after the film that Noma “is a disease of the poorest of the poor”, associated with poverty, poor oral hygiene and malnutrition, and can cause total disfigurement within 10 days.

"Those affected by Noma often live in poor and isolated areas, where access to health care and dental care is almost non-existent," said de Gryse. "Four times a year, MSF sends highly specialised surgeons, nurses and anaesthesiologists to work with Nigerian specialists at Sokoto Children’s Hospital to perform reconstructive surgeries. Last year, we performed over 161 surgeries, and since 2014 over 712 noma patients were admitted to our programme."

+ WHO says NTDs are a diverse group of communicable diseases that prevail in tropical and subtropical conditions in 149 countries, affect more than one billion people and cost developing economies billions of dollars every year. Populations living in poverty, without adequate sanitation and in close contact with infectious vectors and domestic animals and livestock are those worst affected:

·       Buruli ulcer

·       Chagas disease

·       Dengue and Chikungunya

·       Dracunculiasis (guinea-worm disease)

·       Echinococcosis

·       Foodborne trematodiases

·       Human African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness)

·       Leishmaniasis

·       Leprosy (Hansen's disease)

·       Lymphatic filariasis

·       Mycetoma, chromoblastomycosis and other deep mycoses

·       Onchocerciasis (river blindness)

·       Rabies

·       Scabies and other ectoparasites

·       Schistosomiasis

·       Soil-transmitted helminthiases

·       Snakebite envenoming

·       Taeniasis/Cysticercosis

·       Trachoma

·       Yaws (Endemic treponematoses)

* http://noma.msf.org/ A Neglected Disease, MSF

blog comments powered by Disqus