Parasitic worm infections affect millions of people across the globe and can cause long-term, chronic and disabling diseases. Experts have developed the worm index, which they found to have a strong association with a nation's human development index.
With the Millennium Development Goals established by the United Nations coming to an end in 2015, the researchers developed this tool to show why neglected tropical diseases should be an essential component of these goals. Now, work is on to evolve new 'Sustainable Development Goals' that will entail a set of targets for the future of international development.
The research team has used World Health Organization (WHO) data for the number people at risk of parasitic worm infections in each of the largest nations and comparing this number to each nation's population. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, Texas, said, "Through this paper, we have shown how the major neglected tropical diseases, which include intestinal worm infections, schistosomiasis and lymphatic filariasis, are intimately tied to human development. We found a very tight association between the worm index of a country and the human development index. The higher the worm index, the lower the human development index."
Jennifer R. Herricks, postdoctoral fellow at Baylor College of Medicine, said, "Because decreased human development is related to increased burden of parasitic worm infections, we recommend that serious consideration should be given to parasitic worm infections and other neglected tropical diseases when trying to attain goals that will ultimately improve human development; for example, when implementing the sustainable development goals."
The study is published in Plos Neglected Tropical Diseases