College of Medicine & Veterinary Medicine

Deadly diseases neglected for decades

Decades of neglect have allowed infectious diseases to devastate lives in the developing world, a study shows.

Researchers say three diseases in particular - anthrax, brucellosis and bovine tuberculosis - have for years failed to receive the official recognition needed to combat them effectively.

Major threat

The diseases impact greatly on human and animal health in developing nations, posing a major threat to safe and plentiful food supplies.

The disorders - known as zoonotic diseases - are spread between animals and humans.

They are common in societies where poverty is widespread, and where people rely on animals for their livelihood.

Disease control

Edinburgh scientists reviewed every meeting of the World Health Organization’s decision-making body since 1948.

Researchers say the diseases have been neglected because they mostly arise in developing countries.

They have been eliminated or brought under control in more developed countries as simple and effective controls exist.

Improving health

Poor healthcare infrastructure means thousands of sufferers are often left un-diagnosed, presenting huge challenges to health professionals, policy makers and researchers.

Scientists say the adoption of a multidisciplinary One Health approach - involving experts from a range of disciplines - could improve human and animal health and help to control the diseases.

It is extraordinary that in the 21st century we are failing to manage brucellosis and the other neglected zoonotic diseases that impact so severely on rural communities in developing economies when, for many of these diseases, the tools to manage them are well developed.

Professor Sue WelburnDirector of the Global Health Academy, University of Edinburgh