WorldLeish 2022 highlights advances and new discoveries in leishmaniasis research worldwide

Publicação: 8 de December de 2020

For four days, the world’s leading experts will exchange ideas, share advances, discoveries, projects and update the status of the disease at the most important event in the world in leishmaniasis

It is necessary that the international scientific community bear in mind the problem of this disease and that actions are taken to control it

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and uncertainty about the duration and effects of the disease, it was necessary to postpone Worldleish 7  for one year. Even with so many changes in the world dynamics, the organization of the event expects massive international participation and that there will be no difficulties for the Leishmaniac community from all over the world to be able to participate in person. The congress will be held between May 23 and 28, 2022 in the beautiful city of Cartagena de Indias (Colombia), declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Worldleish 7 Chair Dr. Iván Darío Vélez, recognizes that the preparations are going very well. “We have an international organizing committee formed by doctors Jorge Alvar, from the Medicines for Neglected Diseases (DNDi) initiative; Carlos Henrique Nery Costa (Brazil); Felix Tapia and Alexis Mendoza (Venezuela); Nancy Saravia, of the International Center for Medical Research and Investigations (CIDEIM); Gabriela Delgado (National University of Colombia) and researchers Carlos Muskus and Sara Robledo, from the Tropical Disease Learning and Control Program (PECET), from the University of Antioquia. We also have the support of Drs KP Chang, Luigi Gradoni and Jerome Depaqui”, he details. Still according to Dr. Velez, there is a preliminary scientific program, an official page where interested parties can review information about the event, social networks like Facebook and Twitter and a database with more than 1400 contacts related to the world of leishmaniasis. “Something fundamental is that we have the support of the Worldleish world committee for the activities of organizing the seventh version of the congress and our goal is to make a Worldleish 7 with quality and participation similar to WorldLeish 6, held in Toledo, in 2017. For this, we expect a significant participation of researchers and scholars of Leishmaniasis in Latin America”, he highlights.

Until the event arrives and to maintain the enthusiasm of the community interested in the subject, Pre-WorldLeish7, webinars are being held every two months, with the participation of specialists in the disease, which serve to prepare for the congress in 2022. The first webinar was with Professor Peter Hotez and the second was attended by Professor Shyam Sundar, from India. The third was with Dr. Daniel Argaw, from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the fourth was attended by Dr. Jeffrey Shaw, from Brazil. The fifth will be with Dr. Koert Ritmeijer, from the international humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF). “With the participation of these great personalities from the world of research and leishmaniasis, they not only present us with the advances in their research, but, as international references, webinars are an excellent platform to motivate researchers from all over the world to participate in Worldleish 7 and continue researching and expanding the study of the theme Leishmaniasis”, points out Dr. Velez.

The congress’ scientific program will cover topics ranging from basic science to disease control and elimination programs. The agendas include main conferences, symposia, pre-congress courses, meetings for thematic alliances, awards for student presentations, as well as social and cultural events. In accordance with Velez, the idea is to demonstrate the advances that have been made in the world in the study and control of this disease. “It is an important event that brings together not only Leishmaniacs, but also interested in knowing these advances so that, by participating in this congress, they can motivate and increase their innovation efforts to control leishmaniasis”, he emphasizes. The main highlight will be the advances and new discoveries in leishmaniasis research worldwide; where researchers, professionals and students are expected to exchange experiences to identify and generate new research-related issues.

Asked about the results Worldleish 7 intends to achieve, Dr. Velez says that this event can arouse the interest of young researchers, financiers, pharmaceutical companies and authorities in each country for the theme/disease, which is currently neglected, affects millions of people worldwide, and still has great gaps such as the lack of better medicines, diagnostic procedures, vaccines and preventive measures.

Investments can save lives

Leishmaniasis is a disease mainly in developing countries that have health problems, lack of access to medicines and medical consultation, so making it visible can save lives and effective control implies the need to improve the conditions of these people. Dr. Velez explains that prevention and control strategies are linked to the eco-epidemiology of the disease, which is complex and has different transmission cycles, many species of parasites and vectors. And the strategies that are designed must be oriented to the particularities of each transmission site. General strategies such as vaccines and better treatments are eagerly awaited, hence the importance of investing in these developments.

For him, there is a lack of investments in a solution that can save so many lives. “The problem with neglected tropical diseases is that they are diseases neglected by governments and multinational pharmaceutical companies. Events like WorldLeish seek to give visibility to these diseases and the drama of millions of people worldwide who suffer from them, to motivate those who make decisions to invest in and research about these diseases. “Precisely for making it visible through the creation of events such as WorldLeish and webinars, the work of WHO and the interest of researchers are advancing, manifesting and gaining strength”, he points out.

Regarding a solution for Leishmaniasis, Dr. Velez is categorical in stating that the efforts made by entities such as WHO, TDR and DNDi, among others, have shown successful results in some initiatives. “The situation of visceral leishmaniasis in the Indian subcontinent is much better now, thanks to advances in effective control programs and new therapeutic regimens. “However, it still requires effort, we don’t have a vaccine and we need less toxic, more effective and cheaper drugs for cutaneous leishmaniasis. We still have many challenges ahead, but they also show us excellent and promising results that make us look to the future with optimism”, he stresses.

It is necessary that the international scientific community bear in mind the problem of this disease and that actions are taken to control it. The president of WorldLeish 7 believes that this is an important reason to call on authorities, governments, pharmaceutical companies and altruistic entities to consider the need to investigate the development of new technologies and new products for this forgotten disease. It is also an opportunity to invite all researchers, especially young people and students, to carry out their work in the study of Leishmaniasis.