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Tropical disease needs more advocates

Even with new regulations to combat a tropical disease that affects more than half a million people annually, people are still not getting the proper care, IRIN reports.

Visceral leishmaniasis (VL), or kala azar, is a disease transmitted by sand fly bites that causes severe fever, extreme weight loss, swelling of the spleen and liver and if gone untreated, it causes death in 100 percent of those infected.

Despite its high number of cases and severity of the disease, the only treatment for it up until recently has been a series of shots administered each day for 30 days, something that is difficult for many villagers in remote areas or those who lack access to proper health care, the news outlet reports. Though in 2010, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend making a cheaper combination therapy that only requires 17 days of shots.

Places like South Sudan have started to use the alternative method, though it is slow to catch on in other African countries, partly due to lack of interest from pharmaceutical companies.

"Over the years, there has been neglect of kala azar by pharmaceutical companies as well as funding agencies because the affected do not have purchasing power," Monique Wasunna, assistant research director at the Kenya Medical Research Institute and Africa head of the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative told the source.

And it's not just the companies who lack interest, WHO estimates that there are about 1.5 million new kala azar cases annually, yet only 600,000 are officially reported. This lack of publicity means humanitarian workers recieve less funding and supplies to help those suffering.
 
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