The World Health Organisation (WHO) organised the first global meeting on skin Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) at its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, on 27-31 March 2023. This hybrid meeting gathered about 800 experts, partners and stakeholders from 86 countries.
The main focus was the progress and challenges implementing integrated skin NTD activities at country level. With sessions on training tools, disability, rehabilitation and inclusion, diagnostics, treatment and operational research among others.
In June 2022, WHO published a strategic framework for integrated control and management of skin-related NTDs. Of the 20 NTDs, more than half present with skin manifestations, amongst which is Buruli ulcer. Its prevention and mode of transmission remain unknown, and thereby, early diagnosis and treatment are crucial.
The development of a rapid test for diagnosis of Buruli ulcer
As indicated in the WHO Road Map for NTDs 2021-2030, the target for this disease is control, being the indicator the proportion of cases in category III (late stage) at diagnosis, which has to be <10% in 2030, currently is about 30%. Therefore, the development of a rapid test for diagnosis of Buruli ulcer at primary health-care level is a priority. As was mentioned by Israel Cruz, the responsible of data management and monitoring in the BLMs4BU trial and Head of International Health Department of the National School of Public Health, at the Instituto de Salud Carlos III during his presentation of the review of current diagnosis tests for skin NTDs.
The priority on current drug treatments for Buruli ulcer is the need for shortening therapy with a cost effective approach. There are three ongoing clinical trials, being BLMs4BU trial one of them.
During the treatment session, Christian Johnson, the Clinical Trial Coordinator in Benin and Medical Advisor from Fondation Raoul Follereau, presented the progress of the Phase II in Benin. He highlighted “the challenge of ensuring the availability of specific drugs and the necessity to strengthen the active screening strategies to reach Buruli ulcer patients”. Moreover, he mentioned the extension of the clinical trial to a Phase III in Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire and Togo. With the last being recruiting patients since March of the present year.
A workshop on “Current and future landscape on Buruli ulcer treatment” was organised by the BLMs4BU Consortium in order to provide a forum for all relevant stakeholders in drug development for this disease to discuss prospective treatment regimens, including the current clinical trials and the potential use of Telacebec.
Stakeholders of the project also held the first Consortium meeting on April 1st. This meeting served to know the current status of the project. Also the clinical trial in each country, and to discuss future perspectives and recommendations for the challenges encountered.