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Scientists call for an end to devastating worm diseases in the developing world

Consider the lowly worm. For some, it’s just a garden pest. But for more than a billion people in the developing world, parasitic worms can be a pernicious threat, causing disease, disability and sometimes death.

In a newly published perspective in the medical journal The Lancet, Stanford researchers, including Stanford Health Policy's Eran Bendavid and a host of distinguished colleagues, urge the World Health Organization to develop sweeping new guidelines to help end parasitic worm diseases, one of the world’s most prevalent health problems. They call for greatly expanded treatment of these diseases, which could save years of human suffering and an estimated $3 billion in lost productivity — similar to the impact of the Ebola and Zika epidemics of recent years, they say.

“Now everyone is coming together to say, ‘Now is the time, after more than a decade of new experience and data, to update the way we do things,’ said Nathan Lo, a Stanford MD/PhD candidate who is the first author of the commentary. “There is so much opportunity, whether it’s expanding treatment from children to the entire community or bringing in other strategies, such as sanitation, to strengthen the way we approach these diseases.”

The perspective is published today in Lancet Infectious Diseases and coincides with a WHO meeting in Geneva where officials, including many of the authors, are gathering to consider new treatment guidelines.

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