The newly established Kala-azar Research Centre, which received significant technical support from icddr,b, was inaugurated on 2 December in the Mymensingh district of northern Bangladesh. Located in the Mymensingh Medical College’s SK Hospital, the new research centre is part of the Government of Bangladesh’s ambitious objective of eliminating kala-azar from the country by 2015.
Serving as a Centre of Excellence for treatment, research and training on kala-azar (also known as visceral leishmaniasis) as well as other infectious diseases, the Kala-azar Research Centre (KRC) is the result of a collaboration between the Directorate General of Health Services under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST).
icddr,b collaborated with SATREPS Project (Science and Technology Research Partnership for Sustainable Development) which is operated by both JICA and JST to develop the KRC’s research infrastructure. JICA donated laboratory equipment worth BDT. 30 million ($371,000) to increase the centre’s technical capacity. DNDi contributed to the structural renovation of the SK Hospital for the establishment of KRC.
The KRC was formally inaugurated by the Hon’ble State Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Captain (Rtd) Dr. Mozibur Rahman Fakir, MP. “This is a great initiative, and a landmark of strong collaboration between the Government of Bangladesh, icddr,b and Japan,” he said during the opening ceremony.
Kala-azar – a centuries old public health problem
Kala-azar is regarded as one of the major neglected tropical diseases. It is a disease of viscera (the internal organs, particularly liver, spleen, bone-marrow, and lymph-nodes) and is caused by a parasite called Leishmania donovani. The vector or agent of the disease is the sand-fly. Sand-flies are commonly found in parts of Asia, Africa, and South America where around half a million people are infected each year.
With appropriate interventions, kala-azar can be prevented and eliminated from the Indian sub-continent. It is an important public-health problem in many developing countries, and more than 90% of the total cases in the world occur in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sudan, and Brazil. Due to the shortcoming of the current public surveillance system, perhaps there has been an underestimation of kala-azar incidence in Bangladesh.
Forty-five out of 64 districts in Bangladesh are affected by kala-azar. About 5000 new cases of Kala-azar are reported in the country every year, with the burden mostly lying in the Mymensingh district. At least 5 upazilas of Mymensingh district have the highest kala-azar burden in the country. Due to lack of easy diagnostics and suitable drugs, the majority of the disease-stricken population cannot afford the appropriate health care services.
icddr,b’s long years of experiences in undertaking research on the preventive and curative measures against kala-azar will provide valuable inputs in the successful running of the KRC.
For details contact Nasmeen Ahmed