|Fact sheet No 102: Lymphatic Filariasis - Rev. September 2000 (WHO, 2000, 3 p.)|
The strategy of the Global Programme to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis has two components: firstly, to stop the spread of infection (i.e. interrupt transmission), and secondly, to alleviate the suffering of affected individuals (i.e. morbidity control).
To interrupt transmission, districts in which lymphatic filariasis is endemic must be identified, and then community-wide ("mass treatment") programmes implemented to treat the entire at-risk population. In most countries, the programme will be based on once-yearly administration of single doses of two drugs given together: albendazole plus either diethylcarbamazine (DEC) or ivermectin, the latter in areas where either onchocerciasis or loiasis may also be endemic; this yearly, single-dose treatment must be carried out for 4-6 years. An alternative community-wide regimen with equal effectiveness is the use of common table/ cooking salt fortified with DEC in the endemic region for a period of one year.
To alleviate the suffering caused by the disease, it will be necessary to implement community education programmes to raise awareness in affected patients. This would promote the benefits of intensive local hygiene and the possible improvement, both in the damage that has already occurred, and in preventing the debilitating and painful, acute episodes of inflammation.
The generous pledge in 1998 by the global healthcare company SmithKline Beecham to collaborate with the World Health Organization in its elimination efforts included the donation of numerous resources (but especially albendazole, one of the mainstay drugs in the elimination strategy), free of charge, for as long as necessary to ensure success of the elimination programme. This donation, coupled with the recent decision by Merck and Co., Inc., to expand its ongoing Mectizan® (ivermectin) Donation Programme to include treatment of lymphatic filariasis where appropriate, and the creation of additional partnerships with other private, public and international organizations, including the World Bank, have all further strengthened the prospects for success of these elimination efforts.