At the launch of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) first report on Neglected Tropical Diseases today, GSK announced a new five year commitment to expand the donation of its medicine albendazole to treat children at risk of intestinal worms, known as soil-transmitted helminths (STH).
Today’s report confirms that intestinal worms cause more ill health in school-aged children than any other infection. STHs aggravate malnutrition and amplify rates of anaemia. In doing so, they impede children’s physical growth and cognitive development, contributing significantly to school absenteeism. Lack of access to safe water and proper sanitation are the main factors in the persistence and prevalence of these diseases.
As part of control programmes, the WHO recommend annual treatment of all children aged 1-15 in STH endemic areas with single dose albendazole (or mebendazole). This ‘de-worming’ usually results in immediate improvements in child health and development. It also reduces absenteeism from school leading to improved academic achievement, and helps to reduce the burden on already overstretched health systems.