The WHO highlights the Health Parasitology Unit of the University of Valencia for its track record in neglected diseases

Children saying goodbye to Santiago Mas-Coma after finishing the survey in a sch
Children saying goodbye to Santiago Mas-Coma after finishing the survey in a school.
The global fight against Neglected Tropical Diseases of the Health Parasitology Unit (University of Valencia) has been recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for its work as a Collaborating Centre. The Valencian team, led by emeritus professor Santiago Mas Coma, also a Reference Centre for the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, has been highlighted for its international leadership and for saving thousands of lives, especially of children.

World Neglected Diseases Day is celebrated every January 30. The significance and impact of the research tasks of the Health Parasitology Unit, both in field surveys in highly endemic areas and in experimental laboratory studies, have represented significant advances. Thus, in Latin America, the results of its recent monitoring of infection in young children after an uninterrupted decade of preventive chemotherapy through annual mass treatments have made it possible to prove the effectiveness of this control strategy that the team launched ten years ago.

The Valencia team has also managed to show how to carry out an effective "One Health" type control strategy, defining the steps and detailing their implementation order, taking into account the reduced logistical and economic availability of these highly low income countries.

Santiago Mas-Coma, a WHO expert, comments: "it has taken a lot of effort and work over three decades to get here, but the enormous satisfaction of seeing how we have improved child development in such impoverished rural areas is a feeling of unmatched pride. And having ensured the continuity of these disease control actions by combining annual treatments with the implementation of One Health measures for the coming years gives us great peace of mind. "We have reduced morbidity and mortality, and we will be able to maintain it."

The WHO expert adds "behind all this there is an entire research team without whose participation and hard work in inhospitable conditions at an extreme altitude of 4,000 m’it would have been impossible to carry out the long mission that we have had to carry out, without forgetting all the institutions that have collaborated in paying for the very high funding that has been necessary. We are going to spread all this on January 30, on World Neglected Diseases Day."

In this sense, the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis donated the necessary medication and with this success the continuity of its production and future donation has been ensured, and with this the ability to continue the work of fighting this disease on all continents using the WHO headquarters in Geneva as intermediary and free distributor to all endemic countries.

Furthermore, the decisive contributions of the researchers of this team in understanding the origin and evolution of these diseases are allowing prevention initiatives in several Asian countries in which epidemic situations caused by extreme increases in monsoons rainfall are occurring, and are part of climate change phenomena and repercussions of uncontrolled imports and exchanges of livestock in South Asian countries with exponentially increasing populations and respective growing demands for food.