A mosquito-borne disease, lymphatic filariasis is a leading cause of permanent and long-term disability worldwide, The Carter Center works in two of the world's most endemic countries — Nigeria and Ethiopia — to demonstrate that elimination of this disfiguring disease is possible.
The Carter Center's efforts stem from the 1993 conclusions of the Carter Center's International Task Force for Disease Eradication (ITFDE), which named lymphatic filariasis as one of only seven infectious diseases with the potential to be eradicated.
New equipment for medical technicians in Haiti helps advance the nation's joint effort with the Dominican Republic to rid both nations of lymphatic filariasis and malaria.
In September 2008, The Carter Center, in partnership with the Dominican Republic and Haiti, launched a historic 18-month initiative to help the two countries and their other partners accelerate the elimination of two devastating mosquito-borne infections — malaria and lymphatic filariasis. The initiative stemmed from a 2006 recommendation of the ITFDE that it is "technically feasible, medically desirable, and would be economically beneficial" to eliminate the parasitic diseases from their shared island of Hispaniola. The binational project broke new ground in collaborations between these two countries for the betterment of public health on the entire island. Binational efforts continue with Carter Center support.
Leading Cause of Disability
Worldwide, 120 million people are infected with lymphatic filarisis and 1.1 billion are at risk of infection. In its severest form, lymphatic filariasis leads to elephantiasis, a crippling condition in which the limbs often are grotesquely swollen or enlarged.
In communities endemic for this disease, as many as 10 percent of women can be affected with swollen limbs, and 50 percent of men can suffer from mutilating disease of the legs and genitals. These conditions have a devastating effect on the quality of life of victims, impacting them not only physically but also emotionally and economically.
The drug Mectizan®, donated by Merck and used to fight river blindness, also helps prevent lymphatic filariasis when combined with the medicine albendazole, donated by GlaxoSmithKline. Health education is another critical tool in the fight, as is the distribution of long-lasting insecticidal bed nets (LLINs). LLINs especially help to protect pregnant women and children who cannot take drug treatment. Bed nets have the added benefit of helping to protect against other mosquito-borne diseases like malaria.
The Range of Lymphatic Filariasis
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Life Cycle of Lymphatic Filariasis
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Millions of Treatments Provided
Since 1998, The Carter Center has been the largest nongovernmental organization assisting the national lymphatic filariasis program in Nigeria — Africa's most lymphatic filariasis-endemic country. Through health education and community-delivered treatments and bed nets, the Center and its partners have been fighting lymphatic filariasis disease transmission in Plateau and Nasarawa states. In 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO) released new guidelines for determining when lymphatic filariasis transmission had been interrupted and drug treatments could be stopped safely.
In May, 2012, The Carter Center and Ministry of Health staff conducted a survey among more than 7,100 children in 173 schools that found Carter Center-assisted program areas satisfied the conditions for having ended lymphatic filariasis transmission.
Based on these results, the Nigeria Federal Ministry of Health directed that mass drug administration for lymphatic filariasis can stop in 2013 in both Plateau and Nasarawa states, and that post-treatment surveillance can be launched.
And following an extensive mapping project in the highly endemic Gambella Region of Ethiopia in 2009, The Carter Center has begun integrating lymphatic filariasis mass drug administration with river blindness and malaria control. The success of the joint programs has demonstrated that one community-based health education and drug distribution system can support the control and elimination of multiple diseases.
As a result of Carter Center-assisted efforts in Nigeria, nearly 33 million treatments were distributed between 2000 and 2011, and the burden of this disfiguring disease has been dramatically reduced.
In Ethiopia, treatments began in 2009, and over 235,000 treatments have been reported since. In 2012, the program expanded from one to four districts.
Disease Program Integration
To further pioneer integration opportunities and reach communities more efficiently, The Carter Center and Nigerian health officials currently integrate lymphatic filariasis, malaria, river blindness, and sometimes schistosomiasis activities in Plateau and Nasarawa states.
|Lymphatic Filariasis Elimination|