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The fight against the world's 'big three' infectious diseases — HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria — is more likely to be won by paying greater attention to other developing world diseases, say researchers.

In PLoS Medicine today (31 January), they say that 'neglected diseases' — which affect millions of people in developing countries but get little attention from funding bodies and scientists — often make the big three more lethal.

HIV/AIDS and TB, for instance, are more deadly in people with parasitic diseases such as hookworm or schistosomiasis. There is also growing evidence that people with such diseases have a higher risk of becoming infected with one of the big three.

The authors, led by Peter Hotez of the US-based Human Hookworm Vaccine Initiative, say that cheap and effective ways of treating many neglected diseases already exist.

They say, for instance, that just US$200 million a year — a fraction of the billions spent on the big three — could provide drugs to half a billion Africans to control or eliminate seven neglected diseases.

Hotez and colleagues argue that integrating efforts to tackle these diseases and the big three makes even more sense since they often overlap geographically.

"Given the compelling logic and modest costs of embracing neglected tropical disease control efforts, it is surprising that those aiming to control the big three have largely ignored these opportunities," say the team.

They add that donor agencies and major partnerships working to tackle the big three should expand their activities to incorporate efforts to tackle neglected diseases.

A spokesperson from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria declined to comment.

Link to full article in PLoS Medicine

Link to accompanying commentary