December 7, 2021

I, Science

The science magazine of Imperial College

Dr Hotez charts the neglected tropical diseases that need new treatments ...

Dr Peter Hotez
ASM Press


As Dr Peter Hotez notes in the second edition of Forgotten People Forgotten Diseases, thanks to the Millennium Development Goals we are witnessing a new sense of urgency about the suffering of the world’s poorest people. The MDG 6, to “combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases”, has been a target for funds from celebrities,philanthropic organizations and G8 nations.But while HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis have received unprecedented levels of interest, there remains a group of diseases that still sit on the sideline. This is a group of exotic-sounding tropical infections that Hotez, a paediatrician and global health advocate, sees as representing “a health and socioeconomic problem of extraordinary dimensions”.

These are the neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), so named because they are just that – neglected.Testament to his distinction as Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine and President of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, Hotez unleashes his wealth of knowledge in this book on the 17 NTDs identified by the WHO – a list that spans ascariasis to Wuchereria bancrofti. As somebody who has tried to find information on these diseases in the past, I know that it is a challenge to obtain up-to-date, complete information about the NTDs and their respective eradication efforts. But Forgotten People Forgotten Diseases provides exactly that ‘one-stop’ resource.

This book is comprehensive yet extremely readable, and is meticulously well referenced. It includes numerous colour pictures, maps and simplified diagrams of complex pathogen life cycles. The brilliant summary tables throughout the book present the information in a format that’s easy to read. And even if you just want a basic overview of a condition, Hotez concludes each chapter with summary points that highlight the key bits of information. The book is well structured, with related diseases placed together in the same chapter. Covering soil-transmitted helminth infections, schistosomiasis, filarial infections, blinding diseases, mycobacterial infections, kinetoplastid infections, leptospirosis, dengue, rabies and the neglected tropical diseases of North America. Hotez’s broad-ranging book spans numerous diseases across multiple continents.

Thefinal chapters are on the future trends for controlling NTDs. Here, Hotez details how pharmaceutical companies and advocacy organizations might work to develop new drugs for NTDs, and he gives a great summary of the positive role of product development partnerships (PDPs).These chapters act as a powerful weapon in the battle against the NTDs.

Hotez begins each chapter with a couple of inspirational quotes, and I shall end with one of my favourites from the book – from Albert Sabin himself: “A scientist who is also a human being cannot rest while knowledge which might reduce suffering rests on the shelf.” And this book should rest on the bedside table.