WHO publishes framework to control skin NTDs

21 June 2022

Article: 56/2410

On 8 June 2022, at a World Health Organization (WHO) hosted seminar, the WHO launched a strategic framework for skin-related neglected tropical diseases (skin NTDs), which identifies opportunities to integrate approaches for control and management, including common learning platforms, capacity-building for case detection and delivery of treatment. The framework is a companion to the WHO roadmap for neglected tropical diseases 2021 to 2030

Skin NTDs afflict hundreds of millions of people, and cause immense discomfort, suffering, stigmatization and mental distress and affect the quality of life of mostly marginalized populations in remote rural areas. 

At least 10 of the 20 NTDs prioritized by the WHO present with changes on the skin before other changes occur in the internal organs or physical disabilities develop. An integrated approach provides opportunities and solutions for addressing skin NTDs in the field, using measures ranging from education, awareness-raising and seeking medical care at the onset of symptoms, to building capacity by developing appropriate diagnostics and tools. 

The WHO note that the general population of member states need to be shown greater awareness of skin diseases and their seriousness, and building the community health workforce to detect and report skin problems to health workers is vital, using the system previously used to protect against dracunculiasis, leprosy, yaws and other diseases. 

Capacity building is reportedly critical to implementing integrated approaches. Online tools for front-line health workers include a training guide and a multilingual mobile app. The WHO say accurate, reliable tools are also essential to guide diagnosis and integrated management, given the co-endemicity and common differential diagnosis for many skin NTDs. 

The WHO has been working to identify target product profiles to achieve the road map targets, which include case detection at the point of care for Buruli ulcer, dermal leishmaniasis and mycetoma. For mycetoma, the only effective approach is early case detection and management, involving long periods of antifungal treatment combined with surgery. An integrated approach provides opportunities to share available resources, improve case detection, reduce treatment costs and improve programme efficiency. A promising new medicine for eumycetoma, called fosravuconazole, is in clinical trials and may potentially shorten the duration of treatment. 

Source: WHO, 13 June 2022