Modelling study widens viewpoints for new roadmap for neglected tropical diseases

In November 2019 WHO congratulated the Modelling Consortium for its contribution to the new 2021-2030 roadmap for NTDs

The study made by the NTD Modelling Consortium provided potential evidence and information to WHO, presenting additional perspectives to these diseases and being a critical contribution to WHO roadmap for 2021-2030

“We recognize the importance of mathematical and statistical models when it comes to setting future targets for infections resulting from conditions as varied as neglected tropical diseases,” said Dr Mwelecele Ntuli Malecela, Director, WHO Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases. “The modellers have provided additional perspectives to these diseases of poverty and these are critical in finalizing our roadmap for 2021–2030.”

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Modelling provides fresh perspective to WHO’s new roadmap for neglected tropical diseases

In April 2019, the staff of WHO’s NTD Department met with NTD modellers during a meeting held in Geneva. It was supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and brought together a large network of infectious diseases modellers clustered around the NTD Modelling Consortium. This included researchers from the Nuffield Department of Medicine (NDM) and the Big Data Institute (BDI) at the University of Oxford, UK.

Simon Brooker, deputy director on the NTD team at the Gates Foundation, said: “Modelling is a vital tool in the fight against infectious disease – providing analytical insight into the impact of different interventions and showing enablers and barriers to reaching disease elimination and control goals. The collaboration between the NTD Modelling Consortium and WHO on the 2030 Roadmap goals and targets is an excellent example of how modelling can provide relevant, high-quality, timely contributions to the global NTD strategy.”

Findings from recent modelling have provided insight into which neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are technically and operationally feasible to eradicate and what are the largest barriers to control or elimination and what control methods are most likely to be effective for specific diseases. The findings, resulting from interaction with modellers and part of WHO’s call for wide ranging consultations on developing its new Roadmap, are compiled in a new series of Open Letters which aim to inform on the most viable ways of attaining the 2030 NTD goals and targets. These have been published in the  Gates Open Research.

The Open Letters describe quantitative and mathematical modelling insights into lymphatic filariasis, yaws, soil-transmitted helminth infections, rabies, human African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), Taenia solium (tapeworm), onchocerciasis (river blindness), scabies, Chagas disease and schistosomiasis amongst others.

NTDs affect the poorest and most marginalised people in tropical countries. The previous roadmap for tackling NTDs runs only to 2020, so new targets are being set. The 2030 roadmap will incorporate learnings from the last 10 years of NTD control.

The authors hope that the papers will build a platform for future partnerships between modellers and policy makers.

Professor Deirdre Hollingsworth, principal investigator of the NTD Modelling Consortium and a senior group leader at the BDI, said: “The Consortium and wider modelling community have been working to develop these models, and it is great to see this effort rewarded through the interaction with WHO. We look forward to seeing this collaboration develop. Elimination of death and disease caused by NTDs is within our grasp if we work together.”

Professor Graham Medley, acting lead principal investigator of the NTD Modelling Consortium, said:  “It is inspiring to see how mathematical modelling can help inform global strategy and against these nasty diseases. The poorest people deserve the best science.”