Disease Eradication

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International Task Force for Disease Eradication

What is ITFDE?

Inspired by the successful eradication of smallpox in 1977, the International Task Force for Disease Eradication formed at The Carter Center in 1988 to evaluate disease control and prevention and the potential for eradicating other infectious diseases.

Scientists and notable international health organizations serving on the task force have identified eight diseases that potentially could be eradicated, thereby dramatically and permanently improving the quality of life for many millions of the world's poorest people.

Those diseases are: Guinea worm (dracunculiasis), poliomyelitis, mumps, rubella, lymphatic filariasis, cysticercosis, measles, and yaws.

Currently supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the task force reviews progress in the field of disease eradication and the status of diseases selected for control or eradication, and recommends action steps.

What is the Carter Center's Role?

In addition to sponsoring and hosting ITFDE meetings, Carter Center health programs address two of the diseases currently identified by the ITFDE for eradication (dracunculiasis and lymphatic filariasis) and three diseases identified for elimination or better control (onchocerciasis, also known as river blindness, trachoma, and schistosomiasis).

In 2006, the ITFDE determined that malaria and lymphatic filariasis could be eliminated from the Dominican Republic and Haiti, which share the island of Hispaniola. Since then, the Carter Center’s Hispaniola Initiative has made great strides in promoting binational cooperation to eliminate these two diseases on the island.

Key Factors in Eradicating a Disease

Scientific feasibility and political support are the two primary factors determining whether a disease can be eradicated.

Conditions that make it scientifically feasible to eradicate a disease include:

  • Epidemiologic vulnerability. A disease could be considered vulnerable if it: does not spread easily; there is a natural cyclical decline in prevalence; there is a naturally induced immunity; it is easily diagnosed; and the duration of any relapse potential is short.
  • Availability of an effective and practical intervention. Such interventions could include a vaccine or other primary preventive measure, a curative treatment, or a means of eliminating vectors. Ideally, intervention should be effective, safe, inexpensive, long-lasting, and easily deployed.
  • Demonstrated feasibility of elimination. A disease that has been documented to have been eliminated from an island or other geographic unit could be a candidate for eradication.

Even if it is scientifically feasible to eradicate a disease, there are nonscientific conditions that must be considered, such as:

  • Perceived burden of the disease
  • Expected cost of eradication
  • Synergy of eradication efforts with other interventions
  • Necessity for eradication rather than control.
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"The potential for disease eradication to permanently improve quality of life worldwide is tremendous."

– Dr. Donald Hopkins
Special Advisor for Guinea Worm Eradication, Carter Center Health Programs

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