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What is a neglected tropical disease?

Woman in bed fever

Neglected tropical disease: what it is, which are the most important and what differentiates them from other diseases.

Not all diseases are the same. Regardless of the seriousness, there are diseases that receive greater attention and interest from the international scientific community, and from governments, and others that instead end up too quickly "by the wayside", despite claiming many victims every year. This category includes the so-called neglected tropical diseases, a group of diseases widespread in a large part of the world but often underestimated. Let's find out together the meaning of the term neglected disease and the list of those recognized by the World Health Organization.

Neglected disease: the meaning

When we talk about a "neglected disease" we refer to a group of neglected tropical diseases that affect the world's poorest and most disadvantaged populations, particularly in Latin America , Africa and Asia . These diseases, which include for example leprosy, lymphatic filariasis and schistosomiasis, are often overlooked by scientific research and the global medical community due to their low impact on the Western population and the limited financial gains that pharmaceutical companies could potentially achieve from development of treatments for these diseases.


This means that people living in contact with these diseases very often do not have access to the care and treatment they need. However, global organizations are working to raise awareness and improve access to treatments for these neglected diseases for those living in the most deprived areas of the planet.

What are the main tropical diseases?

Neglected tropical diseases are termed neglected because they are often overlooked by scientific research and the medical community due to their limited impact on Western populations, as the very name implies. However, these diseases affect over a billion people in impoverished tropical areas, causing serious health, social and economic consequences.

In total, this is a small, but important group of diseases. This is the complete list recognized by WHO:

– cysticercosis and taeniasis;
– dracunculiasis;
– echinococcosis;
soil-borne helminthiasis;
– dengue fever and chikungunya;
– lymphatic filariasis;
– yaws;
– leprosy;
– leishmaniasis;
– Chagas disease;
– onchocerciasis;
– anger;
– schistosomiasis;
– trachoma;
– trematodiasis of food origin;
– African trypanosomiasis.

What is the difference between neglected and global disease?

As we have seen, neglected diseases are prevalent in tropical areas and typically affect the poorest and most disadvantaged communities. The global ones are instead diseases spread all over the planet, and usually already brought to the attention of the scientific and medical community.

However, there is no clear and definitive distinction between the two types of diseases. Neglected ones can in fact spread on a global scale and become a threat to everyone's health, effectively abandoning their "neglected" status.

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