Cryptococcal Meningitis: A neglected NTD?

Benoit Finck/MSF

Although HIV/AIDS has been anything but neglected over the last decade, opportunistic infections (OIs) are increasingly overlooked as large-scale donors shift their focus from acute care to prevention and earlier antiretroviral treatment (ART) initiation. Of these OIs, cryptococcal meningitis, a deadly invasive fungal infection, continues to affect hundreds of thousands of HIV patients with advanced disease each year and is responsible for an estimated 15%–20% of all AIDS-related deaths. Yet cryptococcal meningitis ranks amongst the most poorly funded “neglected” diseases in the world, receiving 0.2% of available relevant research and development (R&D) funding. The debate over whether or not cryptococcal disease is an NTD detracts from cryptococcal meningitis being both HIV related and also urgently needing the interventions (funding, policy drives, and drug pipelines) from which NTDs benefit. This paper calls on the global health community, PLOS NTDs, UNITAID, The Global Fund, and WHO to declare cryptococcal meningitis an NTD and press for urgent funding and policy drives to target optimisation and rollout of CrAg-screening programs.

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