Today we would like to explore some of the good humanity has done by working together and using our technology to help destroy what are called ‘NTDs’ or Neglected Tropical Diseases. These are a vast range of different parasites such as worms, bacteria, amoebae, or viruses. The symptoms they cause are just as diverse and truly the stuff of nightmares (don’t google these, you can’t unsee this stuff!).
Some, like hookworms, complete with children’s brains and bodies for nutrition, stunting growth, and impairing intelligence. Some NTDs cause blindness as the result of awful eye infections. Other parasites confine patients to bed for months, and damage internal organs, often shortening lifespans drastically. Yet others cause horrible disfigurements that lead to social stigma, a life lived in shame, and unemployment. There are also a few that are incredibly agonizing. They cause continuous itching, or horrible pain.
Today I’d like to show you how we have fought back against a particular one, Dracun Culiasis. This is a worm that takes nearly a year to show it’s symptoms, and can take several weeks to remove, as it can grow inside a body to nearly a meter long! In 1985, there were 3.5 million cases of Dracon culiasis all over the world. In 2015, there were 22. We killed 99.999% of this horrible worm worldwide. It will be the first parasite we eradicate for good very soon.
Due to NTDs affecting remote places with poor medical facilities or medical facilities that are far away, the world had to come together to organize the fight against these terrible conditions. To stamp out NTDs once and for all, what’s possibly the biggest medical program in human history was launched, unmatched in scale. Organizations from all fields are working together right now to eliminate ten of these NTDs forever. Since most NTDs can be eliminated by treatment, but require everyone in the affected area to be treated to immunize them from NTDs. That means millions of doses of medicine, often for several NTDs at a time, over the course of years, in countries where there is no infrastructure. Governments and health organizations just couldn’t do that by themselves. It’s here, humanity got an opportunity to show off what the industrialized production of medicine can achieve. The pharma industry stepped in to distribute the necessary drugs for free, and promised to keep doing it until those ten diseases are gone. By 2020, nearly $18 Billion worth of drugs will have been distributed, the largest drug donation the world has ever seen. In 2015 alone, these treatments reached over 850 million people, more than the population of the EU and the US combined.
We, as a species, really can do great things with no other motivation than to help each other.
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