NTD control is also important for success in fighting other important diseases – notably HIV/AIDs, tuberculosis and malaria. In Africa, there are high rates of co-infection among NTDs and HIV/AIDs, tuberculosis and malaria, demonstrating an increased need for more research to unlock the links between these diseases, as well as a number of opportunities for treating comprehensive programming to treat these diseases simultaneously.
NTDs weaken the immune system, making it more likely for an individual to contract other diseases and less likely that they will be able to fight them. Women with female genital schistosomiasis (FGS) have three times the chance of contracting HIV than those women without it; in Africa, at least 16 million women may be infected with FGS. Additionally, the presence of soil-transmitted helminthes (ascariasis, trichuriasis and hookworm) is a risk factor for the development of active pulmonary tuberculosis. Hookworm and malaria both cause anemia, which leads to increased morbidity and mortality for those who are co-infected, particularly women and children.
In some cases, NTDs can also reduce the efficiency of treatment and prevention of other diseases. Soil-transmitted helminthes have shown to reduce the effectiveness of tuberculosis treatment as well as reducing the effectiveness of the BCG vaccine – which prevents tuberculosis. Those with HIV and soil-transmitted helminthes may also have a lower response to T-cell treatments. There may be links between NTDs and the efficacy of other vaccines, though more research is needed.
The high level of co-infection means that there are opportunities for integrated treatment programs. The average cost of NTD medication - approximately $0.50 annually - means that it can easily and cheaply be integrated into treatment programs for other diseases, ensuring that they are as effective as possible. Other disease prevention methods, such as mosquito control, will have positive impacts on the reduction of both malaria and lymphatic filariasis in areas like Africa, where the diseases are co-endemic.
- Global Network Factsheet: HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria
- Association between genital schistosomiasis and HIV in rural Zimbabwean women
- Deworming helminth co-infected individuals for delaying HIV disease progression
- Tropical Anemia: One of Africa's Great Killers and a Rationale for Linking Malaria and Neglected Tropical Disease Control to Achieve a Common Goal
- Incorporating a Rapid-Impact Package for Neglected Tropical Diseases with Programs for HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria