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A new series of open letters from the NTD Modelling Consortium, which provide insight into the most viable and effective ways to tackle neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), has been published in Gates Open Research.

The open letters form part of important, wide-ranging consultations initiated by the World Health Organization as it seeks to develop a new roadmap for NTDs towards 2030. The open letters resulted from a meeting held in Geneva in April 2019 between the WHO Department of Control of NTDs and a large network of infectious disease modellers clustered around the NTD Modelling Consortium, which includes many researchers from the Big Data Institute (BDI) and the Nuffield Department of Medicine (NDM) at the University of Oxford.

The findings in the open letters include which diseases are technically and operationally feasible to eradicate, the largest barriers to control or elimination, and the control methods most likely to be effective for specific diseases. The 2030 WHO roadmap will succeed the previous roadmap which runs to 2020, and will incorporate learnings from the last 10 years of NTD control.

Simon Brooker, deputy director on the NTD team at the Gates Foundation, said: “Modelling is a vital tool in the fight against infectious disease – providing analytical insight into the impact of different interventions and showing enablers and barriers to reaching disease elimination and control goals. The collaboration between the NTD Modelling Consortium and WHO on the 2030 Roadmap goals and targets is an excellent example of how modelling can provide relevant, high-quality, timely contributions to the global NTD strategy.”

NTDs affect the poorest and most marginalised people in tropical countries. The open letters describe quantitative and mathematical modelling insights into lymphatic filariasis, yaws, soil-transmitted helminth infections, rabies, human African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), Taenia solium (tapeworm), onchocerciasis (river blindness), scabies, Chagas disease and schistosomiasis.

The authors hope that the papers will build a platform for future partnerships between modellers and policy makers.

Professor Deirdre Hollingsworth, principal investigator of the NTD Modelling Consortium and a senior group leader at the BDI, said: “The Consortium and wider modelling community have been working to develop these models, and it is great to see this effort rewarded through the interaction with WHO. We look forward to seeing this collaboration develop. Elimination of death and disease caused by NTDs is within our grasp if we work together.”

Professor Graham Medley, acting lead principal investigator of the NTD Modelling Consortium, said: “It is inspiring to see how mathematical modelling can help inform global strategy against these nasty diseases. The poorest people deserve the best science.”

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