NUMS -Turkish Ege University collaboration to research tropical diseases, long ignored in global health agenda

RAWALPINDI: National University of Medical Sciences (NUMS) in collaboration with Turkish Ege University is working on a 2-year joint research project on Leishmaniasis, an endemic tropical disease which is a source of skin infection mostly in KPK and Baluchistan provinces of Pakistan.

Dr Shumaila Naz, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences of NUMS, who is working on this project said that NUMS and Ege University are working jointly to diagnose and treat Cutaneous leishmaniasis, a Neglected Tropical Disease ( NTD) Which affects about 2 billion people world-wide.

The WHO NTD road map 2021-2030 establishes the need for a One Health approach, to ‘address health risks at the animal-human- ecosystems interface’ as an important tool for human and economic development. Pakistan Scientific Foundation and the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (PSF-TUBITAK), Dr. Shumaila said, are jointly funding the research project to help those suffering from this disease.

TUBITAK and PSF are also funding 10 other projects through their collaboration in six different fields like earth sciences, aeronautics, materials science, biotechnology, renewable energy and environmental science.

In his remarks, the Vice Chancellor of NUMS, Lt Gen Syed Muhammad Imran Majeed, HI(M), (Retd), said that although there is little overall work in terms of an economic impact of NTDs in Pakistan; based on existing evidence from other low- and middle-income countries, we expect that large sections of Pakistani society are trapped in poverty due to the impact of these conditions.

“Federal Ministry of Health have had some important public health successes in terms of reductions in vaccine-preventable diseases, but there is a need to address NTDs to add to these victories, ” he said inviting attention of the concerned authorities.

NTDs are generally found in the underprivileged areas, both in Pakistan and other regions of the globe and can cause infections like yellow fever, dengue and leprosy contributing to morbidity and mortality of across the world. These diseases are called “neglected” because they generally affect the globally poor and historically have not received as much attention as other diseases have.

NUMS-TUBITAK project aims to study the molecular epidemiology and host immune response of the disease. “Our team will also design a combined approach for the diagnosis of leishmaniasis, as a result of which more useful management of the disease both at an individual and a community level would be possible, ” Dr Shumaila added.

The World Health Organization is commemorating World Health Day today. On this occasion, the WHO is calling for action to eliminate health inequities, as part of a year-long global campaign to bring people together to build a fairer, healthier world. The campaign highlights WHO’s constitutional principle that “the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition, ” said its website.