Activities of the DNTDs

German research contribution to neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) is not increasing enough

+++ More long-term German investment in research centers in endemic countries needed

Berlin, 27.06.2024 "Although Germany is increasing its research on neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), this increase puts it below the average of the ten most productive countries in the world," explained Jürgen May, Chairman of the Executive Board and Head of the Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine. In addition, research funding in this area has declined since 2018. This was determined by the study "An assessment of the contribution of German institutions to research on neglected tropical diseases", which was commissioned by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) under the leadership of the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine (BNITM) 31 NTD experts. The analysis was carried out in collaboration with the German Network against Neglected Tropical Diseases (DNTDs) e.V., the German Society for Tropical Medicine, Travel Medicine and Global Health (DTG) and the German Society for Parasitology (DGP). Numerous authors and other experts and interested parties attended the presentation at the German Bundestag.

During a panel discussion afterwards, Beate Kampmann, Scientific Director, Charité Center for Global Health and member of the Steering Committee, German Alliance for Global Health Research (GLOHRA), called for support for interdisciplinary research approaches and funding mechanisms that allow cooperation on an equal footing with partners in low- and middle-income countries. This is already well established in other countries such as the UK and USA. Achim Hörauf, Director of the Institute of Medical Microbiology, Immunology and Parasitology at Bonn University Hospital and spokesperson for the DNTD, described how many German universities already have a large number of long-term and stable collaborations, particularly with Africa.

Christine Dahlke, Head of Translational Immunology, Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), called for a stronger focus on the formation of networks and platforms in order to accelerate research into vaccines against pathogens that can trigger epidemics and to prepare for outbreaks at the same time. The fight against poverty-related, neglected tropical diseases must be integrated into this work.

The presentation of the research study received cross-party support from members of the German Bundestag: Ruppert Stüwe, MP, member of the Subcommittee on Global Health and member of the Committee on Education, Research and Technology Assessment, member of the Parliamentary Advisory Council on Neglected Tropical Diseases, Georg Kippels, MP, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Global Health and of the Committee on Health, Spokesperson of the Parliamentary Advisory Council on Neglected Tropical Diseases, Ottmar von Holtz, MP, Member of the Committee on Economic Cooperation and Development and of the Subcommittee on Global Health, Andrew Ullmann, MP, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Global Health, Member of the Parliamentary Advisory Council on Neglected Tropical Diseases.

Laura de la Cruz, DLR Project Management Agency, Department of International Health Research, Coordination One Health and Pandemic Prevention, welcomed the presentation of the study on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Research and Education (BMBF).

Carsten Köhler, Chairman of the German Society for Tropical Medicine, Travel Medicine and International Health (DTG), member of the DNTD Board and of the Steering Committee, German Alliance for Global Health Research (GLOHRA) moderated.

The study "An assessment of the contribution of German institutions to research on neglected tropical diseases" was prepared by 31 NTD experts from 16 German research institutions and organizations. As far as possible, each expert tandem worked on a specific neglected tropical disease. They gathered evidence-based information, data and assessments from various sources. This included a systematic literature search for articles with at least one co-author from a German institution and a systematic search for publication metrics, patents and clinical trials.

Ensuring progress by combating neglected tropical diseases

Berlin, 29.05.2024 - “We are on the right track. Over the past three years, we have focused with our German partner on integrating the One Health approach and supporting ESPEN's regional approach,” said Elisabeth Juma, Team Lead for the Expanded Special Project for Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases (ESPEN).

At a webinar focusing on the work of ESPEN, organized by the German Network against Neglected Tropical Diseases (DNTDs), the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and its implementing organization, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), national and international stakeholders supporting the WHO program discussed the work of ESPEN.

Elisabeth Juma went on to explain that the future challenges for ESPEN are continuous funding and the integration of NTD control into existing national health programs. The fight against female schistosomiasis (FGS), for example, should be embedded in sexual and reproductive health programs or cancer programs (e.g. cervical screening). Another important issue, according to Juma, is access: “Some medicines are available, but people do not have access. If, for example, young women no longer attend school, they do not receive NTD medication from the state-supported mass treatment programs, as these are mainly carried out in schools.

Daniel Eibach, BMZ, emphasized how important the gender approach is in the area of global health. It is primarily women who are affected by diseases, especially neglected tropical diseases and their effects. He cited female genital schistosomiasis as an example. Without a special focus on women, the sustainability goals and the WHO roadmap for the elimination of NTDs could not be achieved.

Ruth Schumacher, GIZ, addressed the challenge of coordinating the One Health approach in partner countries with many stakeholders. She affirmed that Germany would like to remain an important partner alongside ESPEN and emphasized that the partnership approach is important. The programs can only be sustainable if national governments are also willing to invest in health.

Girija Sankar, Head of NTD Programs, CBM Christian Blind Mission, used the example of South Sudan to describe how important and how difficult it is for people and animals to receive health care through the NTD programs. It is therefore essential that the local people are involved at community level and supported by them.

Paul Verlé, formerly of ENABEL, Institute for Tropical Medicine Belgium, used the great progress made in the fight against African sleeping sickness to demonstrate the need for good diagnostics, which is still lacking. This applies not only to sleeping sickness, but also to many other NTDs. Drugs that could treat 2-3 diseases at the same time would also be excellent.

The webinar was moderated by Achim Hörauf, Director of the Institute of Medical Microbiology, Immunology and Parasitology, University Hospital Bonn, spokesperson of the DNTDs.

National networks against neglected tropical diseases appeal to their heads of government

Berlin, 26 March 2024 - For the first time, the national networks against neglected tropical diseases from Italy, France, Japan, Canada, the UK, the USA and Germany have drafted an appeal/open letter that was sent to all sherpas in their respective countries in the run-up to this year's G7/G20 summit in Rome. The German Network against Neglected Tropical Diseases has sent the joint declaration to State Secretary Dr Jörg Kukies in the Federal Chancellery and to the G7 preparation teams in the Federal Ministries for Economic Cooperation and Development, Health and Education and Research.

Foto: © vfa/konrad

Building capacity and infrastructure in science and research to combat neglected tropical diseases

Berlin, 17.10.2023 - At this year's World Health Summit 2023, the DNTD's focus was on discussing capacity and infrastructure building for science and research in countries where neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are endemic. The focus was on collaborations, joint approaches and setting research priorities to combat NTDs by universities, civil society organisations and the private sector.

Dr Ibrahima Socé Fall, Director Global Programmes on Neglected Tropical Diseases, World Health Organization (WHO) pointed out that effective NTD interventions require well-structured applied research studies coordinated with other research areas to build a solid foundation for implementing the NTD Roadmap 2021-2030.

Dr Michael Makanga, Executive Director, European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) emphasised that capacity in the fight against neglected infectious diseases depends highly on the development of local scientific excellence and leadership. Gender equity is a very important challenge. Investment would need to be made in multidisciplinary research teams with diverse talents, engaged in locally relevant research and enriched by international collaboration. (see slides)

Prof. Francine Ntoumi, President and Director-General, Congolese Foundation for Medical Research (FCRM) described the research network CANTAM (Central African Network on Tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and Malaria). Since 2021, NTDs, among others, have been included in this EU-funded research programme, EDCTP. By expanding laboratories at different locations, a common platform has been created to support the training of PhD students. As a second example, she spoke about research to combat schistosomiasis in school children and pregnant women at the Centre de Recherches Médicales de Lambaréné (CERMEL) in Gabon. (see slides)

Martin Bergfelder, Head of International Health Policy Unit, Federal Foreign Office presented the German-West African Centre for Global Health and Pandemic Prevention, which has been established since 2021 within the framework of a DAAD funding programme Global Centres for Health and Pandemic Prevention. The partner country is Ghana, where trans- and interdisciplinary research projects are being established. The focus is on the One Health approach, among other things, as pandemics often arise from human intrusion into wildlife reservoirs and contact with pathogens. The reason is often extensive agriculture. Climate change can also be a trigger. The programme includes PhD programmes and scholarships, as well as courses on pandemic prevention and preparedness.

Félix Calderón, Research Director, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) presented the research centre of the Tres Cantos Open Lab Foundation (TCOLF) near Madrid, which offers researchers the opportunity to conduct research at the Open Lab on neglected tropical diseases, among others. Independent scientists will have access to GSK's R&D facilities, resources and expertise to advance their own research into drugs for endemic infectious diseases. Tres Cantos Open Lab Foundation acts independently of GSK and is not-for-profit. One challenge is to establish a legal framework to protect intellectual property on new developments, but also to allow free access and use.  (see slides)

Prof. Clarissa Prazeres da Costa, Co-director Center for Global Health, Technical University of Munich (TUM) focused her presentation on the involvement of civil society in research projects. She described the important role of midwives in rural regions of Pakistan, where integrated health systems are lacking, lack of knowledge or wrong information is widespread. Midwives are the important multipliers there. Through them, the neglected women are reached. They are key to building trust, providing comprehensive and respectful maternal care, and offering family planning counselling. Midwives can also be trained to recognise diseases associated with maternal health, such as genital schistosomiasis. This was implemented in a women's health workshop in Gabon. (see slides)

In the discussion, all agreed that international research in Germany against neglected tropical diseases is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) mainly through Product Development Partnerships (PDPs), but also through the funding of EDCTP as well as the funding initiative Research Networks for Health Innovations in Sub-Saharan Africa. The CYSTINET Africa network, among others, serves as a One Health platform to combat cysticercosis caused by tapeworms, which can develop into neurocysticercosis if it affects the brain and is the most common cause of epilepsy in sub-Saharan Africa.

The panel was moderated by Prof. Dr. Achim Hörauf, Speaker of the DNTD and Director Institute for Medical Microbiology, Immunology and Parasitology, University Bonn Medical Center and Dr. Carsten Köhler, Director, Institute for Tropical Medicine, University Hospital Tübingen.


On the Federal Government's answer to the Questions of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group

Berlin , 7 September 2023 - In an open letter, the Board of the German Network against Neglected Tropical Diseases reacts to the previous initiatives of the Federal Government to combat neglected tropical diseases and takes up again the answer of the Federal Government to the Question of the CDU/CSU- Parliamentary Group, Printed Matter 20/7155, June 2023. This letter is addressed to the Federal Chancellor, members of the German Bundestag, the Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Federal Minister for Health, the Federal Minister for Education and Research and the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development. With five recommendations, the members of the network call for a stronger and more concrete focus on poverty-associated neglected tropical diseases in current debates and decisions on Global Health - Pandemic Prevention - Climate Change - Feminist Foreign and Development Policy.