LifeArc and FIND Launch £6.2M Initiative to Combat Visceral Leishmaniasis in Kenya

In a significant stride towards combatting visceral leishmaniasis, a life-threatening parasitic illness prevalent among children and vulnerable populations in Africa, a pioneering £6.2 million healthcare initiative has been unveiled in Kenya. Led by the self-funded, not-for-profit medical research organization, LifeArc, in collaboration with the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), the project aims to intensify efforts to detect and treat visceral leishmaniasis under the banner of 'Intensifying Visceral Leishmaniasis Diagnostic Efforts in Support of Disease Elimination in Kenya'.

Running from 2024 to 2027, the initiative aligns with the World Health Organization's ambitious target of eliminating visceral leishmaniasis globally by 2030. At the heart of the endeavour lies a focus on early diagnosis and treatment to prevent disability and mortality. This entails raising community awareness, enhancing testing capacity at local and national levels, and strengthening the healthcare system to expedite diagnosis and intervention. Additionally, the project aims to accelerate the development of novel diagnostic tools to enable more precise disease detection, crucial for implementing rigorous control measures.

Visceral leishmaniasis, also known as kala-azar, presents a severe threat, boasting over a 95% fatality rate if left untreated. Symptoms include irregular fevers, weight loss, and enlargement of the spleen and liver, often resembling other prevalent illnesses such as chronic malaria. Thriving in areas marked by unsanitary living conditions, visceral leishmaniasis disproportionately affects impoverished communities, heightening the risk, particularly among children and vulnerable adults.

Dr. Mike Strange, Head of Global Health at LifeArc, underscores the organization's dedication to combating neglected tropical diseases like visceral leishmaniasis. Meanwhile, Ms. Helen Bokea, Director of Neglected Tropical Diseases at FIND, stresses the urgency of scaling up testing capacity to meet the WHO's 2030 elimination target.

This collaboration forms a pivotal part of LifeArc's Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) Translational Challenge, aimed at advancing the control and elimination of neglected tropical diseases through innovation in diagnostics and therapeutics. FIND's neglected tropical diseases program complements these efforts by addressing critical diagnostic gaps, essential for achieving the WHO's ambitious goals by 2030.


Article by Jed Mwangi