Disease-Specific Groups

The disease-specific groups provide a forum for members to come together to identify areas of common concern and opportunities for integration and collaboration. New disease-specific groups can join the NNN with the agreement of the Executive Committee. Each disease-specific group has representation on the Executive Committee which is decided by the respective group. Below you can find our existing disease-specific groups.

Onchocerciasis group

Onchocerciasis patient

Onchocerciasis, also known as river blindness, is a parasitic disease caused by the parasite onchocerca volvulus, transmitted by multiple bites of a black fly that breeds near fast flowing rivers. As the parasite multiplies in the body, its offspring, called microfilariae, invade the skin and cause intense rashes and debilitating itching. When microfilariae enter the eyes, they cause an inflammatory response; long-term this leads to visual impairment and, ultimately, blindness.

Communities affected by river blindness are known to abandon rich farmland to escape the disease. The symptoms of the disease interfere with the ability of adults to work and raise their families and the ability of children to grow and learn. A single, annual dose of Mectizan given to eligible patients controls the disease and relieves the symptoms. After two decades of free Mectizan, some countries in Latin America have achieved the elimination of transmission of the disease and are now stopping treatment. It is now hoped that elimination is also feasible in Africa.

Chair: Louise Hamill (LHamill [at] sightsavers [dot] org)

Trachoma group

Trachoma patient

Trachoma is the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness. It is caused by infection from the bacterium chlamydia trachomatis which spreads through contact with eye discharge from an infected person – via hands, towels, sheets and, in some cases, eye-seeking flies, and thrives where there is poor sanitation and limited access to water for personal hygiene.

Repeated infection damages the eyelids in some individuals so that the normal defences are compromised causing the eyelashes turn inwards and rub painfully against the eyeball surface. This advanced stage of the disease, trachomatous trichiasis, is extremely painful and has a profoundly negative impact on an individual’s quality of life. Trichiasis can be corrected by eyelid surgery, however, if left untreated, it may lead to irreversible low vision and blindness.

Chair: Angelia Sanders (angelia [dot] sanders [at] cartercenter [dot] org)

Schistosomiasis and Soil-transmitted helminth group

Schistosomiasis patient

Schistosomiasis is a parasitic disease caused by trematode flatworms. Larval forms of these parasites are released by freshwater snails, which then penetrate human skin of people bathing or swimming. The larvae live in the blood vessels and when female larvae mature, they release eggs, some of which are passed out of the body, while others are trapped in body tissues causing damage.

Soil-transmitted helminth infections are among the most common infections worldwide and affect the poorest and most deprived communities. They are transmitted by eggs present in human faeces which in turn contaminate soil in areas where sanitation is poor.  The main species that infect people are the roundworm (Ascaris lumbricoides), the whipworm (Trichuris trichiura) and the hookworms (Necator americanus and Ancylostoma duodenale.)

Chair: Anouk Gouvras ( anouk [dot] gouvras [at] eliminateschisto [dot] org)

Lymphatic filariasis group

Legs swollen with Lymphatic filariasis

Lymphatic filariasis (LF), commonly known as elephantiasis is a mosquito-borne parasitic disease caused by thread-like worms of the genus Wuchereria and Brugia. Long-term infection progressively results in profound disfigurement and pain in the limbs and genitals as the parasites lodge in the lymphatic system causing severe swelling, secondary bacterial infections, and fever.

Though the disease is usually irreversible, there is now evidence that treatment can alleviate symptoms of patients suffering from the disease. However, the primary goal of the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem is to stop the spread of infection by reducing worm larvae in the blood of infected persons so that mosquitoes cannot transmit the worms from one human to another.

Chair: Ernest Mensah (EOMensah [at] fhi360 [dot] org)

Leprosy group

Leprosy patient

Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae. The disease mainly affects the skin, the peripheral nerves, mucosa of the upper respiratory tract and also the eyes. Leprosy is curable and treatment provided in the early stages averts disability. Multidrug therapy (MDT) treatment has been made available by WHO free of charge to all patients worldwide since 1995, and provides a simple yet highly effective cure for all types of leprosy.

 In April 2016, the WHO launched a five-year global leprosy strategy in partnership with national programmes and all other stakeholders of leprosy control. Since control strategies are limited, national programmes actively improve case holding, contact tracing, monitoring, referrals and record management.

Chair: Geoff Warne (gwarne [at] ilepfederation [dot] org