Thomson Reuters has recently released its global research report on Neglected Tropical Diseases. The study tracks the current status of research on neglected tropical diseases. It analyzes research output across countries and fields from 1992-2011 and finds a two-fold increase in published literature focused on a group of diseases identified by the World Health Organization as underserved by public health services. Despite these recent gains, the total research output is still significantly less than that of first world diseases.
Though the analysis finds that research output focused on neglected tropical diseases has doubled from roughly 2,500 papers in 1992 to well over 5,000 papers in 2011, these totals still pale in comparison to other diseases such as cancer (85,000 papers), HIV/AIDS (16,000 papers) and coronary artery disease (15,000 papers). To put this in context, more than one billion people are infected with one or more neglected tropical diseases and more than half a million die each year from their infections, compared with ~35 million globally who are infected with HIV or the ~346 million afflicted with diabetes.
Neglected Tropical Diseases impact daily life for billions of people globally. However, funding for research and treatment of them pales in comparison to first-world impacted or supported diseases such as HIV/AIDS.
Social and moral questions arise when trying to understand why some diseases are favored over others, adding a new perspective on what it means to be truly neglected.