Date Published: February 24, 2009
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Author(s): Peter J. Hotez, Gavin Yamey
Partial Text: PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases is an open-access community journal that serves the needs of a small but active and robust community of neglected tropical disease (NTD) scientists, clinicians, and public health and policy experts. As stewards of that community, our editorial staff has very much molded the journal according to what we have learned from you in terms of mission, priorities, and scope. In the eighteen months since the launch of PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, some of our most interesting editorial discussions and queries from authors are in regards to the journal’s scope, particularly the specific conditions defined as NTDs (http://www.plosntds.org/static/scope.action).
There are certain diseases that easily meet these criteria. A good example are the helminth infections, especially the most common ones, such as hookworm infection, ascariasis, trichuriasis, strongyloidiasis, schistosomiasis, and lymphatic filariasis—each affecting more than 100 million people in sub-Saharan Africa or tropical regions of Asia and the Americas. We have included many of the less common helminthiases in our scope, including food-borne trematode infections, onchocerciasis, loiasis and other filarial infections, cysticercosis and other cestodiases, and other intestinal nematode infections. We also include helminth infections that are not exclusively tropical, such as enterobiasis, toxocariasis, and trichinellosis. In North America (and elsewhere in temperate regions) helminth infections such as ascariasis and strongyloidiasis are still considered diseases that primarily affect the poor, and they have been designated by some as “neglected infections of poverty” ,. In summary, we would consider almost any human helminth infections as an NTD and thus within the scope of the journal.
Similarly, most of the protozoan infections, including Chagas disease, leishmaniasis, human African trypanosomiasis, and many of the intestinal protozoan infections, are also considered NTDs. Conspicuous by its absence on the protozoan infection list is malaria. Certainly, no one would question the devastating global health impact of this disease, nor its predilection to affect the poor. Moreover, as with the NTDs, several investigators, including Jeffrey Sachs and others, have documented in some depth the poverty-promoting impact of malaria ,. We have chosen to omit malaria from our list of NTDs for three reasons. First, there is a comparatively large community of investigators working on malaria (in contrast to the smaller NTD research community). Second, while we acknowledge shortfalls in funding , there have been important infusions of funding and heightened advocacy for malaria control in recent times, including through the US President’s Malaria Initiative, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, Roll Back Malaria, and several malaria advocacy groups, including Malaria No More (http://www.malarianomore.org/). Third, malaria researchers already have a very wide range of open-access venues for their work, including the other six PLoS journals, all of which have published studies on malaria, as well as the Malaria Journal, published by BioMed Central (http://www.malariajournal.com/).
When it comes to the bacterial infections, chronic infections such as leprosy, Buruli ulcer, and trachoma clearly qualify as NTDs. Similarly, leptospirosis, relapsing fever, and the treponematoses are important neglected bacterial diseases. We are not generally considering papers on tuberculosis for publication for much the same reason that we refrain from considering malaria papers, i.e., there is a sizeable group of comparatively well-funded experts in the field of tuberculosis and the disease falls in the scope of the other six PLoS journals. However, we are currently considering aspects of bovine tuberculosis that pertain to health in developing countries. Since the launch of PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, we have had several lively editorial discussions about the important enteric bacterial infections, such as cholera, salmonellosis, and shigellosis. After talking to several experts in the field, including Richard Guerrant and Gerald Keusch, we are now welcoming papers on these topics, particularly as they relate to disease in developing countries. We continue to consider papers on tropical fungal infections, as well as some selected non-infectious NTDs, such as podoconiosis.
We are not considering papers on HIV/AIDS unless they pertain to NTD co-infections—an example of a paper we have published on HIV–NTD co-infection was the systematic review by Judd Walson and Grace John-Stewart that examined whether treating helminth infection affects the prognosis of patients with HIV-1 . Among the other viral infections, we now welcome papers on arboviral infections and have taken measures to add experts in this area on our editorial board. In addition, we recognize the importance of rabies as an NTD, as well as some of the viral hemorrhagic fevers. Our journal continues to publish papers on the insect vectors that transmit NTD pathogens, as well as papers on intermediate hosts such as snails.