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10 February 2015

New partnership to tackle deadly tropical disease

Mott MacDonald, together with the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), have launched KalaCORE – the consortium for Control and Elimination of Visceral Leishmaniasis (VL). The move brings together the world’s leading scientific experts and practitioners in VL and Mott MacDonald’s combined experience of managing large, complex programmes, and practical knowledge of health systems and health equity issues.

VL, also known as kala azar, is one of the most dangerous neglected tropical diseases. Transmitted by the bite of infected sandflies, it attacks the immune system, and if left untreated it is almost always fatal. VL is one of the diseases which persist in the poorest and the most marginalised communities. It is associated with malnutrition, population displacement, poor housing, and lack of resources.

New, more effective tools for diagnosis and treatment are now available but these need to be made more accessible. Over the next four years, KalaCORE will deliver a programme to support national efforts to tackle this disease in South Asia (India, Bangladesh and Nepal) and East Africa (Ethiopia, Sudan and South Sudan) and conduct operational research to fill knowledge gaps. The programme is funded by UK aid from the UK government.

In South Asia, countries are progressing towards elimination. The consortium will focus on supporting efforts to keep transmission levels low, while addressing the remaining challenges such as poor case detection and inappropriate treatment, as well as building the capacity of local institutions. In East Africa, the disease comes in epidemic waves, flourishing amid weak national health infrastructures, mass displacements of non-immune populations and the HIV epidemic. The main focus in this region will be to help scale up treatment and pilot vector control methods. 

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