Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Neglected Diseases Amid Wealth

Slaves who survived the Middle Passage, "the largest forced migration in recorded history," were forced to live in filthy and unsanitary conditions that facilitated the introduction of parasites from west Africa to the New World. These included hookworms, whipworms and amebae, as well as parasites causing malaria, yellow fever, and schistosomiasis. Today the major tropical diseases introduced into the Americas during the slave trade remain endemic among the people living in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Neglected tropical diseaes are not exclusive to low-income countries. These diseases include ascariasis, dengue fever, congenital cytomegalovirus, and others. Such infections account for a sizable but largely hidden disease burden among minority populations living in poverty in the United States..particularly people of African American descent.

(Health Affairs, November/December 2009, Peter Hotez)

Photo by John A. Carroll, M.D.

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