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The Highly Uncommon Black Fever is Actually Killing People throughout the World
Black fever or visceral leishmaniasis is also called kala-azar. It is basically a kind of parasitic disease which is contracted through sand flies. Since medical treatment for this disease is impractical, researchers are focusing on the eradication of sand flies transmitting the disease. The sand flies generally live in crevices of the walls made out of the mud. This is common in the tropical environments.
Black fever causes weight loss and also results in the failure of different important organs of the body. It can also have an impact on an individual’s immune system. If not treated within the time remaining, it can turn out to be dangerous.
The symptoms of this disease can take a number of months to actually appear clearly. There are many communities throughout the world not aware of the symptoms and the causes of VL. This means that people are generally diagnosed during the later stages when it is too late to treat the disease.
Black fever results in poverty and is also called the poor man’s disease. It prevents people from working and pushes the ones already living in poverty, into further poverty. Medical costs incurred in treating this disease are also high. This again has an impact on the well-being of an individual and his or her family.
Views of the Researchers
It is always expected that a specific disease possessing the ability to kill 95% of its victims would be common. However, this is not the case with visceral leishmaniasis. This disease remains in the World Health Organization’s list of uncommon or neglected tropical afflictions.
This is because this disease generally affects the people living below the poverty line. David Poche, the director of field research at Genesis Laboratories confirms this fact. This disease is generally transmitted by the adult sand flies that bite cattle. The larvae of these sand flies feed on the feces of the cattle.
It affects around 400, 000 people annually killing around 30,000 people. More than 90% cases of black fever occur in countries like Brazil, India, Bangladesh, South Sudan, Sudan and Ethiopia. However, according to Poche, the disease is fast spreading. Black fever and various other forms of leishmaniasis are kinds of subtle diseases.
They kill the untreated individuals quite slowly but steadily. Mark Wiser, professor in the department of tropical medicine at Tulane University, says that the disease is not treated urgently. This is where black fever can have devastating effects.
It is quite challenging to estimate the development of VL and various other varieties of leishmaniasis. This is due to the fact that such diseases have slow-burn progression. However, they rapidly appear in different locations.
This has been confirmed by Wiser. The mortality rate has genuinely decreased in certain areas. However, the recent fights in Syrian refugees and the Middle East have resulted in spikes elsewhere.
Further Studies on the Subject
A study was conducted on examining insecticide fipronil as an effective treatment for VL. This study was conducted by Poche and his colleagues from the A7M’s department of wildlife and fisheries sciences in Texas.
The study examined fipronil as an effective insecticide that kills the sand flies transmitting VL. The findings of this study were published in the PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases journal. The findings showed that when fipronil treatments were used on cattle, they could reduce the sandfly population.
This reduction took place by around 90%. By making use of a model, the researchers further showed that treatments could be offered on a monthly basis. This could help in eliminating the sand flies within a time of two years. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation offered financial help to this research work of the scientists.
The scientists used a probabilistic model for studying the impact of insecticide fipronil. This was due to the fact that proper information regarding the proportion of the sand flies was not available. In their studies, the researchers found that the timing of fipronil in relation to sand fly life cycle was very important.
Proper planning was needed for applying the insecticide at the correct time. This would help in avoiding compliance problems that avoid the drugs from being effective. Researchers are looking forward to starting a kind of field trials.
They want to do this for gathering information about the effectiveness of fipronil in limiting the population of sand flies. Unluckily, for the ones affected by black fever, insecticide treatment of cattle might be a little expensive.
Drugs Used for Treating Black fever
Miltefosine is a drug that can be used for treating black fever. The US Food and Drug Administration approved this drug for the treatment of VL in 2014. This drug is available within an affordable range in India and more specifically in Bihar.
This is because Bihar reports a large number of VL cases in the country, says Wiser. It is also important to note that the study model of the insecticide was based in Bihar. However, Poche studied that testing is quite expensive in Bihar which is one of the poorest regions in India.
Transportation costs come as an added obstacle. In this case, taking Miltefosine for 45 to 60 days might be very expensive for the people. This was confirmed by the senior vector ecologist at Genesis Labs namely Rajesh Garlapati. Garlapati further said that once the disease is in control, people stop taking the treatment. This serves as a reservoir and further spreads the disease.
Why are Pharmaceutical Companies not Interested in Producing Drugs for Treating Black Fever?
There are other drugs available for the treatment of VL and other leishmaniasis forms. However, the drugs have serious side effects. They also come with the prospect of developing a practical treatment as per Wiser.
Wiser is the view that there is very little incentive for the pharmaceutical firms investing in required research. Developing a drug that can treat cancer is common. This is because cancer generally affects the rich people. Rich people can always afford expensive treatments and drugs. However, this is not the case with black fever.
It is the disease of a poor man and poor people cannot afford the drug used for treating this disease. This is the reason why drug companies do not have any interest in producing drugs for treating VL. People with this disease do not have enough money to buy the drugs. Therefore, the companies cannot make huge profits on such drugs.