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The European Parliament has called for increased research into 'neglected diseases', which affect millions of people in the developing world but receive little attention from the global scientific community.

In a resolution passed on 8 September, the parliament stressed the importance of cohesive policies that take into account several of these diseases, as well as social problems, at the same time. 

The resolution states that while funding for research on HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis is important, it is vital to tackle comparatively neglected diseases such as leishmaniasis and African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness).

It adds that renewed efforts in this direction are needed because of the emergence of new health threats such as the bird flu, Ebola and Marburg viruses, and the resurgence of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis. It also stresses multi-drug resistance as a growing problem.

Coordinated, cohesive public health policies are necessary, it says. Diseases often affect one another, for example, tuberculosis worsens HIV/AIDS, and HIV/AIDS can severely affect people who have malaria.

The world desperately needs more research into diseases that affect the poor, says the resolution. Existing drugs for schistosomiasis and leishmaniasis, for instance, which affect millions in Africa, Asia and Latin America, are old and ineffective.

The resolution also called for the European Commission to engage in capacity-building efforts by training healthcare workers and researchers. This, it says, is essential if developing countries are to improve their basic healthcare systems.

Pharmaceutical companies, which see little return on diseases affecting the poor, need to be given incentives to invest in research on neglected diseases, adds the resolution.

It recommends creating a new global medical R&D treaty and incorporating technology transfer into policies for development.

The parliament says it is important to translate research findings, including the genome sequencing of parasites causing malaria, leishmaniasis and sleeping sickness into new drugs.

Link to full text of resolution