China’s unremitting efforts to prevent, control, and eliminate parasitic diseases of poverty

Infectious diseases of poverty (IDoPs), a series of diseases closely related to poverty, are mainly prevalent in the least developed countries and regions of the world. Most IDoPs not only can cause disabling chronic infections, but also can result in huge economic losses and make it more difficult for poor people to improve their quality of life and social status, as work published in Infectious Diseases of Poverty explains.

In order to embrace the ‘One World–One Health’ initiative, we describe the prevalence rates, geographical distributions, epidemic characteristics, risk factors, and clinical manifestations of parasitic diseases of poverty in China.

Current status of parasitic diseases of poverty in China

Tremendous achievements have been made in fighting IDoPs in China in the past 60 years. Soil-transmitted helminths are regarded as in the stage of being gradually controlled. Campaigns against some parasitic diseases of poverty (e.g. schistosomiasis, leishmaniasis and malaria) are from the control stage to the pre-elimination stage.

Lymphatic filariasis is in the stage of post-elimination. However, some of these parasites are highly prevalent among marginalized communities where people usually cannot afford the medical services or medicines.

The prevalence of soil-transmitted helminths in China is still unacceptably high compared with that in some economically developed countries such as Japan. On the other hand, the prevalence of some food-borne parasitic diseases (e.g. clonorchiasis, paragonimiasis and angiostrongyliasis) and zoonotic parasitic diseases (e.g. cysticercosis and taeniasis, and echinococcosis) have increased significantly in recent years.

Challenges and strategies for control of parasitic diseases of poverty in China

In this review, we also address the challenges and weaknesses in the control of parasitic diseases of poverty which cover six major aspects and provide the relevant suggestions to control them more effectively.

In this review, we also address the challenges and weaknesses in the control of parasitic diseases of poverty which cover six major aspects and provide the relevant suggestions to control them more effectively.

Poverty: Although China has undergone rapid and sustained economic development, consequent benefits are not evenly distributed across the vast geographical area of China. The incidence of poverty, inadequate hygiene and sanitation in western and central regions of China is far greater, and health care is less accessible. Therefore, financial support for economic development and health care needs to be enhanced.

Environment: Environmental modifications (e.g. South-to-North Water Diversion Project and the Three Gorges Dam Project), environmental damage such as overgrazing and deforestation, and global warming might aggravate the emergence and spread of parasitic diseases of poverty. Therefore, protection of the environment needs to be strengthened.

Globalization and urbanization: Globalization and urbanization not only enhance the mobility of people, but also accelerate the spread of parasitic diseases of poverty. Some non-endemic regions of China are threatened by mobile populations who may introduce diseases to these regions. Therefore, diagnosis and treatment of parasitic diseases of poverty in migrants need to be strengthened.

Low awareness of parasitic diseases of poverty and the habit of eating raw or undercooked fish, snails, and meat have contributed to the increased prevalence rates of food-borne parasitic diseases.

Lifestyle and education: Low awareness of parasitic diseases of poverty and the habit of eating raw or undercooked fish, snails, and meat have contributed to the increased prevalence rates of food-borne parasitic diseases. Therefore, health education should be extensively promoted, especially in poor regions.

Diagnosis and drugs: Lack of sensitive and specific and high-throughput diagnostic methods and limited low-cost and effective drugs and vaccines may accelerate the burden of parasitic diseases of poverty. Therefore, sensitive and high-throughput diagnostic methods, as well as low-cost and effective drugs and vaccines need to be developed.

Surveillance-response systems: The surveillance-response systems provide the final key step to achieving effective elimination of parasitic diseases of poverty. Some important elements should be included, such as surveillance of parasitic infections in poor rural areas, surveillance databases, effective innovations and new technologies, and interdisciplinary and international cooperation.

Elimination of parasitic diseases of poverty: China is emerging as a key player

Chinese central and local governments have drawn up a range of control programs and implemented many integrated control strategies to prevent, control, and eliminate parasitic diseases of poverty. Some strategies can serve as brilliant models for other developing countries, and China is willing to share its expertise and work with international partners to achieve the outcomes promoted by the ‘One World–One Health’ initiative.

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