Epidemics: Latest MSF Updates

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has a long history of responding to epidemic outbreaks of cholera, meningitis, measles, malaria, and other infectious diseases that spread rapidly and can be fatal if not treated.

Over the past decade, MSF has also become involved in the treatment of the devastating pandemics of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis (TB), which is the leading cause of death for people with HIV/AIDS. MSF also treats neglected diseases such as kala azar, sleeping sickness, and Chagas, diseases that largely affect the world's poorest people and for which there are, at present, few effective treatment options. Furthermore, MSF treats and advocates for people afflicted with drug-resistant and multi-drug resistant forms of TB that require lengthy, difficult treatment regimens.

MSF believes in bringing the highest quality medical care possible to its patients. Through the Access Campaign, MSF pushes for improved diagnostics and treatments for diseases that disproportionately affect the world's poor, along with urgently needed second-line drugs for the growing numbers of patients developing resistance to first-line medicines. MSF has also called attention to the need for appropriate pediatric formulations for children with HIV/AIDS, and improved treatments and diagnostics for tuberculosis, for which there have been virtually no new advances in treatment since the 1960s.

In 1999, MSF co-founded the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) which brought together drug researchers, medical practitioners, and pharmaceutical companies to explore alternative ways of developing medicines—basing research and development priorities on need rather than profit. In 2007, DNDi and the pharmaceutical company sanofi-aventis launched ASAQ, an effective and easy-to-use treatment for malaria. More recently, MSF and DNDi worked to develop and implement the first viable new treatment for sleeping sickness in a quarter of a century, nifurtimox-eflornithine combination therapy (NECT), and they are now working to find and clinically test a new drug to treat Chagas disease.

In recent years, MSF has responded to measles epidemics in several countries (particularly in Central and West Africa), a dengue fever outbreak in Honduras, kala azar outbreaks in South Sudan and elsewhere, and a widespread outbreak of cholera in Haiti, where the organization treated more than 60 percent of all the cases that presented in the country, and on the border between Guinea and Burkina Faso, where teams showed the efficacy of using cholera vaccines after outbreaks had begun. MSF also supported the governments of Niger and Mali as they implemented the use of a new, low-cost, and longer-lasting vaccine for meningitis A.

When Ebola broke out in West Africa in March 2014, beginning an epidemic that would claim over 10,000 lives in one year, MSF led the international humanitarian response effort. Since the beginning of the outbreak, MSF has admitted more than 8,100 patients, among whom around 4,960 were confirmed as having Ebola. More than 2,300 patients have survived.

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