The path for mycetoma through the WHO Executive Board meeting 138 was not smooth. First, the discussion in Geneva was delayed for a day. And when the EB finally took it up on Thursday, high drama followed.
The EB was considering a resolution by Sudan, Nigeria and Egypt to add the neglected disease to WHO's official list of neglected diseases—a key step toward securing research funding for the flesh-eating, bone-destroying disease that spreads misery across more than 20 countries.
Despite overwhelming support amongst EB representatives, the US wanted to go through a "technically sound" process and hold off any vote.
“There was a bit of tension - quite a few countries were requesting to just add it,” reports Lauren Chan, from Queen's University in Canada and UAEM (Universities Allied for Essential Medicines) North America.
Director-General Margaret Chan asked the US to consult and take a little more time, Lauren Chan says. She wanted to suspend the item and then possibly return to it on Friday or Saturday.
“Then, there was a lot of discussion and the resolution was adopted for the WHA agenda, with a paragraph on the systematic selection of NTDs,” says Chan. “It was a really exciting discussion.”
With the approval from the EB, the resolution will now go to the World Health Assembly meeting in May in Geneva. If the WHA approves, mycetoma will be added to the neglected diseases list, making it more likely that funding organizations will support much-needed epidemiologic and other research. —Brian W. Simpson