"Neglected tropical diseases like Chagas disease are a major burden for the people of Latin America," said Andreas Fibig, President of Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals. "Bayer is committed to improving and saving the lives of people suffering from this life-threatening neglected tropical disease. The early contract extension affirms our continued commitment to support WHO in its efforts. At the same time, it provides WHO with a predictable supply of product to plan ahead in its fight against Chagas disease," added Fibig. Neglected tropical diseases are primarily infectious diseases that thrive in impoverished settings, especially in the heat and humidity of tropical climates.
WHO Assistant Director General Dr Hiroki Nakatani commented: "The extension of this agreement underscores 10 years of collaboration between WHO and Bayer to fight Chagas disease which affects poor people mainly in Latin America," said Dr Hiroki Nakatani. "Bayer's continuing support in donating high-quality medicines and providing financial support for distribution, logistics and for national health-care programmes will greatly help to reduce the extent of Chagas disease in countries where the burden on health and society is greatest."
About Chagas disease
Chagas disease is an infectious disease caused by single-cell parasites (trypanosoma) which are transmitted to humans via blood sucking insects, the so-called triatomines. These insects mainly find shelter within the housings of poor populations, for example in cracks and crevices of clay houses. In addition, infection can also occur through transfusions with tainted blood or during pregnancy when the infected mother transmits the parasite to her unborn child. It has been considered a NTD since 2005.
According to WHO, more than 10,000 people die every year as a result of Chagas disease, in addition to an estimated 10 million people infected, more than 25 million are considered at risk. Chagas disease is present mostly in Latin America, where it is considered to pose the largest parasitic disease burden. The impact of this life-threatening disease is nevertheless greatly underestimated.
The disease includes two stages: an acute stage lasting about two months shortly after the infection, and a chronic stage that develops over several years. While symptoms are most often absent or mild during the acute phase, they can include fever, fatigue, swollen glands and heart pain. In its chronic phase, Chagas disease can cause damage to the heart, esophagus and colon. Medicine is almost 100% effective in curing the illness when given at the onset of the acute phase.
Chagas disease is one of the 17 diseases categorized by WHO as a Neglected Tropical Disease. Control of NTDs is part of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and is increasingly becoming a priority for the international community.
About Bayer HealthCare
The Bayer Group is a global enterprise with core competencies in the fields of health care, nutrition and high-tech materials. Bayer HealthCare, a subgroup of Bayer AG with annual sales of more than EUR 16.913 billion (2010), is one of the world's leading, innovative companies in the healthcare and medical products industry and is based in Leverkusen, Germany. The company combines the global activities of the Animal Health, Consumer Care, Medical Care and Pharmaceuticals divisions. Bayer HealthCare's aim is to discover and manufacture products that will improve human and animal health worldwide. Bayer HealthCare has a global workforce of 55.700 employees and is represented in more than 100 countries.