KENYA—LifeArc, a British life science medical research organization, and FIND have announced a £6.2 million (US$7.82 million)  collaboration to improve diagnostics and treatment for visceral leishmaniasis in Kenya.

Leishmaniasis occurs in three forms: visceral (affecting internal organs), cutaneous (affecting the skin), and mucocutaneous (affecting the mouth, nose, and throat), all of which can cause serious impairment.

Visceral leishmaniasis, often known as kala-azar, is the disease’s deadliest form that primarily affects children and kills in more than 95% of cases if not treated.

The program aims to accelerate the eradication of this parasitic disease, which is prevalent in Africa, the Americas (especially Brazil), the Middle East, and Southeast Asia, impacting up to 90,000 children and vulnerable people globally.

The initiative, titled ‘Intensifying Visceral Leishmaniasis Diagnostic Efforts in Support of Disease Elimination in Kenya,’ will run from 2024 to 2027 and corresponds with the World Health Organization’s objective of eradicating visceral leishmaniasis by 2030.

It focuses on early diagnosis and treatment to prevent disability and mortality by raising community awareness, increasing local and national testing capacity, and improving the healthcare system’s ability to speed up diagnosis and treatment.

Furthermore, the program will speed up the development of novel diagnostic tests to meet the urgent demand for sensitive diagnostic processes, allowing for more stringent regulatory measures.

Visceral leishmaniasis, which is caused by parasites spread by sandflies, causes symptoms such as irregular fever, weight loss, and spleen and liver enlargement, making it difficult to distinguish from other diseases such as chronic malaria.

The disease thrives in regions with unsanitary housing conditions that encourage sandfly reproduction, and malnutrition increases the risk of infection progression, disproportionately impacting children and vulnerable adults in disadvantaged communities.

During the announcement, Dr. Mike Strange, Head of Global Health at LifeArc, emphasized the organization’s commitment to pushing advances in neglected tropical diseases such as visceral leishmaniasis.

He stressed the relationship with FIND as an opportunity to accelerate progress in Kenya’s fight against this deadly disease by implementing existing tools and developing improved diagnostic tests.

In her speech,  Ms. Helen Bokea, Director of Neglected Tropical Diseases at FIND, reaffirmed the organization’s commitment to partnering with countries and communities to battle visceral leishmaniasis.

She emphasized the importance of meeting the WHO’s 2030 elimination objective and cited the relationship with LifeArc as important in quickening progress.

The project is part of LifeArc’s Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) Translational Challenge, which aims to help eradicate and control neglected tropical diseases through the translation, development, and deployment of innovative diagnostics and therapies.

FIND’s neglected tropical diseases program complements these efforts by addressing diagnostic gaps that are impeding WHO’s 2030 Roadmap targets.

For all the latest healthcare industry news from Africa and the World, subscribe to our NEWSLETTER, and YouTube Channel, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn, and like us on Facebook.