SOURCE: Canadian Dermatology Association

June 08, 2015 07:30 ET

Dermatologists Tackle Neglected Tropical Diseases

VANCOUVER, BC--(Marketwired - June 08, 2015) - Physicians at the World Congress of Dermatology (WCD) this week are sharing innovative solutions they have used to battle tropical diseases affecting the world's poorest people.

Of the 17 diseases designated as neglected tropical diseases by the World Health Organization (WHO), nine have significant dermatologic symptoms.

"These diseases affect millions of people who are already struggling with poverty, and who frequently have difficulty accessing medical care," said Dr. Rod Hay, Chairman of the International Foundation for Dermatology. "Dermatologists are committed to relieving the significant suffering caused by this situation."

One of the most widespread of the neglected tropical diseases is cutaneous leishmaniasis. According to the WHO, there have been about 1 million reported cases of cutaneous leishmaniasis in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America in the past five years. It is a disease that can cause ulcers on exposed parts of the body, leading to disfigurement, permanent scars, stigma and in some cases disability.

Bringing hope to Lebanese refugee camps

Though the disease is not endemic to Lebanon, the influx of refugees from Syria, where it does exist, has created a serious leishmaniasis problem in Lebanon's refugee camps. Given the conditions of the camps, providing care for these patients is challenging.

Dermatopathologist Dr. Ibrahim Khalifeh, from the American University of Beirut Medical Centre, has been working with a team of physicians to address this outbreak. Among other things, Dr. Khalifeh innovated a more rapid way of diagnosing patients.

"In studying this epidemic, we are seeing a new face of cutaneous leishmaniasis in times of war; stressful and unsanitary living conditions may account for the uncharacteristically high number of patients with extensive disease," said Dr. Khalifeh in his WCD abstract.

Using lasers to restore dignity

In Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Drs. Huma khurrum and Khalid AlGhamdi, of King Saud University, are helping people heal from the after-effects of leishmaniasis. Many patients suffer from permanent scars that are not only disfiguring but also carry social stigma.

Dr. Khurrum has experimented successfully with a CO2 laser to improve the appearance of patients with this scarring, and has determined that it is a safe, effective and well-tolerated potential treatment.

Preventing leprosy in children

Leprosy remains one of the most feared and stigmatized diseases in the world. Though it is curable, contracting it can be a devastating experience.

In Indonesia, Dr. Cita Rosita Sigit Prakoeswa, of Airlangga University, was part of a team of physicians that set its sites on finding a way to prevent the disease while it was still "subclinical" -- in other words, before it becomes apparent through clinical manifestations.

Over two years, the team used a mix of antibiotics on school children in Java who tested positive for leprosy. None of the children went on to develop full-blown leprosy.

About the WCD

The World Congress of Dermatology is the world's oldest and continuous international dermatology meeting. The first WCD was held in 1889 and is presented under the auspices of the International League of Dermatological Societies. The 23RD WCD is the first to be held in Canada. For more information, contact the WCD press office at 778-331-7624 or Follow the WCD on Twitter and Instagram at @Derm2015.

About the ILDS

The International League of Dermatological Societies is a non-governmental organization in official relations with the World Health Organization and was officially established in 1935 during the 9th International Congress of Dermatology and Syphilology held in Budapest. The objectives of the ILDS are to stimulate on a global basis the cooperation of societies of dermatology and societies interested in cutaneous medicine and biology; encourage the worldwide advancement of dermatological education, care, and science; promote personal and professional relations amongst dermatologists from around the world; represent dermatology in international health organizations; and, organize a World Congress of Dermatology every four years. For more information about the ILDS, connect with them on Twitter @ILDSDerm or visit

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Contact Information

  • Contact Information
    Jennifer Scott
    WCD2015 Media Relations Director
    Mobile: 1-613-716-2098

    WCD on-site press office (as of June 9, 2015)
    Tel.: 778-331-7624