KARACHI: Every year between 2000 to 5000 Pakistanis die of rabies infection caused by the bite of a rabid animal, usually dogs whereas, globally about 700,000 people are infected with Leishmaniasis, a skin disease, leading to 20,000 to 30,000 deaths per year.
National and international scientists expressed these views on Thursday while delivering key lectures on the second day of the 5th Science and Technology Exchange Program (STEP) international conference on ‘Health Challenges of Communicable Diseases (CDs) and Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs)’, held at the International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS), University of Karachi.
Pakistan’s top research institution, Panjwani Center for Molecular Medicine and Drug Research (PCMD) of ICCBS – University of Karachi hosted the leading science conference in association with Iranian renowned Mustafa (PBUH) Science and Technology Foundation (MSTF).
In his key lecture, ICCBS Director Dr Muhammad Iqbal Choudhary said that more than a billion people are affected by one or more neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), and more than half of world’s population lives in areas of NTD infections.
“They are called neglected because they persist exclusively in the poorest, and the most marginalized communities of the world,” he explained.
“These include Leishmaniasis, scabies, rabies, leprosy, filariasis, trypsonamiasis, schistosomiasis, dengue, Chagas disease, Zika, etc.,” he added
Dr Choudhary lamented that investing money in curing poor-man diseases was a “bad business” in which no one pharmaceutical company was willing to invest.
Talking about Leishmaniasis, he said that this skin disease caused by different species of intracellular protozoan parasites of the genus Leishmania.
“Leishmaniasis is prevalent in many parts of the world, particularly Africa, Asia and Latin America, while around 12 to 15 million people in the world are infected, and 350 million people are at the risk of contracting this infection,” he told.
“According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), every year 700,000 people are infected globally leading to 20,000 to 30,000 deaths per year,” he further informed.
In her lecture, Dr Naseem Salahuddin, a senior consultant and Head of Infectious Diseases at Indus Hospital, said that rabies was one of the oldest diseases of mankind, which was completely fatal disease. “There are estimated rabies deaths, usually caused by rabid dog bite in Pakistan, are 2000 to 5000,” she said while adding that annually as many as 55,000 human deaths are associated with this fatal disease worldwide, while around 50 per cent deaths linked with people under the age of 15 years.
“Most rabies deaths are not reported, while most cases are taken to shrines or faith-healers,” she regretted and added that there were no policies on stray dog control in the country.
She said that inadequate veterinary services, lack of diagnostics, low health priority, poor surveillance and reporting, lack of community awareness, attitudes and practices among doctors and paramedics, frequent short supplies of cell culture vaccines, inadequate understanding and use of cell culture vaccines were some of major causes laying behind the burden of this disease.
Scholars from Iran, Pakistan and other parts of the world also delivered their speeches on the occasion.