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      Does mass drug administration for the integrated treatment of neglected tropical diseases really work? Assessing evidence for the control of schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminths in Uganda

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      Health Research Policy and Systems

      BioMed Central

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          Abstract

          Background

          Less is known about mass drug administration [MDA] for neglected tropical diseases [NTDs] than is suggested by those so vigorously promoting expansion of the approach. This paper fills an important gap: it draws upon local level research to examine the roll out of treatment for two NTDs, schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminths, in Uganda.

          Methods

          Ethnographic research was undertaken over a period of four years between 2005-2009 in north-west and south-east Uganda. In addition to participant observation, survey data recording self-reported take-up of drugs for schistosomiasis, soil-transmitted helminths and, where relevant, lymphatic filariasis and onchocerciasis was collected from a random sample of at least 10% of households at study locations. Data recording the take-up of drugs in Ministry of Health registers for NTDs were analysed in the light of these ethnographic and social survey data.

          Results

          The comparative analysis of the take-up of drugs among adults revealed that although most long term residents have been offered treatment at least once since 2004, the actual take up of drugs for schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminths varies considerably from one district to another and often also within districts. The specific reasons why MDA succeeds in some locations and falters in others relates to local dynamics. Issues such as population movement across borders, changing food supply, relations between drug distributors and targeted groups, rumours and conspiracy theories about the 'real' purpose of treatment, subjective experiences of side effects from treatment, alternative understandings of affliction, responses to social control measures and historical experiences of public health control measures, can all make a huge difference. The paper highlights the need to adapt MDA to local circumstances. It also points to specific generalisable issues, notably with respect to health education, drug distribution and more effective use of existing public health legislation.

          Conclusion

          While it has been an achievement to have offered free drugs to so many adults, current standard practices of monitoring, evaluation and delivery of MDA for NTDs are inconsistent and inadequate. Efforts to integrate programmes have exacerbated the difficulties. Improved assessment of what is really happening on the ground will be an essential step in achieving long-term overall reduction of the NTD burden for impoverished communities.

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          Most cited references 30

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          Human schistosomiasis.

          Schistosomiasis or bilharzia is a tropical disease caused by worms of the genus Schistosoma. The transmission cycle requires contamination of surface water by excreta, specific freshwater snails as intermediate hosts, and human water contact. The main disease-causing species are S haematobium, S mansoni, and S japonicum. According to WHO, 200 million people are infected worldwide, leading to the loss of 1.53 million disability-adjusted life years, although these figures need revision. Schistosomiasis is characterised by focal epidemiology and overdispersed population distribution, with higher infection rates in children than in adults. Complex immune mechanisms lead to the slow acquisition of immune resistance, though innate factors also play a part. Acute schistosomiasis, a feverish syndrome, is mostly seen in travellers after primary infection. Chronic schistosomal disease affects mainly individuals with long-standing infections in poor rural areas. Immunopathological reactions against schistosome eggs trapped in the tissues lead to inflammatory and obstructive disease in the urinary system (S haematobium) or intestinal disease, hepatosplenic inflammation, and liver fibrosis (S mansoni, S japonicum). The diagnostic standard is microscopic demonstration of eggs in the excreta. Praziquantel is the drug treatment of choice. Vaccines are not yet available. Great advances have been made in the control of the disease through population-based chemotherapy but these required political commitment and strong health systems.
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            Rescuing the bottom billion through control of neglected tropical diseases.

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              “Rapid-Impact Interventions”: How a Policy of Integrated Control for Africa's Neglected Tropical Diseases Could Benefit the Poor

              Controlling seven tropical infections in Africa would cost just 40 cents per person per year, and would permanently benefit hundreds of millions of people.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Health Res Policy Syst
                Health Research Policy and Systems
                BioMed Central
                1478-4505
                2011
                6 January 2011
                : 9
                : 3
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Centre for Research in International Medical Anthropology, Brunel University, UK
                [2 ]Department of International Development, London School of Economics, UK
                Article
                1478-4505-9-3
                10.1186/1478-4505-9-3
                3024987
                21211001
                Copyright ©2011 Parker and Allen; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (<url>http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0</url>), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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                Research

                Health & Social care

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