From Harpur Schwartz, an economics/global health student from Connecticut College, USA, interning with Cabi’s Global Health team.
While tuning in to the live broadcast of the Sixty-ninth World Health Assembly taking place at the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, mycetoma reached the discussion floor. At the risk of sounding naïve, I’m going to tell you that I had never heard of mycetoma – although a quick google search revealed images resembling elephantiasis. As a student studying global health, I was a little disappointed with myself; I mean I have at least heard of the other neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). But if mycetoma was unfamiliar to me, how many other people had never heard of this disease? I have provided answers to some basic questions I had about mycetoma in case you too are unfamiliar with this disease…
What is mycetoma?
The World health Organization describes mycetoma as, “… a chronic, progressively destructive morbid inflammatory disease usually of the foot but any part of the body can be affected”. This disease is caused by a bacterial (actinomycetoma) or fungal (eumycetoma) infection where the organism enters the body through a minor trauma or a penetrating injury (i.e. commonly a thorn prick). It is believed that the infection enters the body after this pricking occurs, but there are no concrete studies determining transmission. A good video on it can be found here in Global Health Now's Spotlight on Mycetoma by Amy Maxmen.
Is there a cure?
In terms of treatment, curing actinomycetoma using antibiotics has about a 90% success rate. The use of antifungals to treat eumycetoma has a success rate of about 35%, but in 2016 a new antifungal agent, fosravuconazole, will be the subject of the First Clinical Trial in Mycetoma conducted by Drugs for Neglected Diseases Institute (DNDi). Because the disease takes a slow, relatively pain-free progression, mycetoma is at its most advanced stages once it is diagnosed. It is at these later stages when amputation becomes necessary.