Wednesday, 3 June 2015

The Neglected Tropical Disease Modelling Consortium

Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) get their moniker because they have not received much funding or attention over the years. They disproportionately affect the poorest people in the world and cause enormous amounts of morbidity. Recently however, by packaging several of these diseases together (for example trachoma, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis, lymphatic filariasis) a good deal of attention has been drawn to them.

There are many policy issues concerning the control and elimination of these diseases that are amenable to quantitative analysis and modelling. There is, however, a deficit in the analytical work that has been done for NTDs and this deficit prevents donors and policy makers from working with up-to-date analytics.

The Gates Foundation funded NTD Modelling Consortium has been formed as a research group and gathering of expertise to allow policy makers to tap into the decades of combined experience in the analysis of the dynamics of infectious diseases that have accumulated in international universities. The Consortium is also a conduit for the exchange of ideas, insights and questions between modellers and their users.

SPHPM Associate Professor, Manoj Gambhir will be a primary investigator on the Consortium, with a particular expertise in the eye disease trachoma. This disease is prevalent primarily in Sub Saharan Africa but also elsewhere in the world, notably here in Australia among Aboriginal communities.

Members of the NTD Modelling Consortium have now been awarded funding to perform analyses related to the year 2020 goals of the London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases which is a collaborative disease eradication program. The Declaration is inspired by the World Health Organization 2020 roadmap to eradicate neglected tropical diseases. 

The following diseases will be analysed by the Consortium: lymphatic filariasis; onchocerciasis; schistosomiasi; soil-transmitted helminths; trachoma; Chagas; human African trypanosomiasis; leprosy; and visceral leishmaniasis.

Universities that comprise the Consortium are:
Monash University
Imperial College London
Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine
London School of Tropical Medicine
Warwick University
Erasmus Medical Centre
Case Western Reserve University
Johns Hopkins University
University of Notre Dame
Princeton University
University of California San Francisco
Yale University.

Various factors motivated the establishment of the NTD Modelling Consortium, which is coordinated out of the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom. These factors included the need for mathematical modelling through collaborations with epidemiologists, policy makers and field experts; the advantages of comparing the results of multiple research groups; concentrating on viable funding frameworks; the need for successful recruitment and retainment of infectious disease modellers in this research area; the ability to piggy-back on the advances of the broader infectious disease modelling field; and creating links between mathematical modellers and policy makers. The group will meet twice a year – once in Europe and once in the US.

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