Guatemala has been declared free of river blindness, one of the leading causes of infectious blindness in the world. Once the most endemic country in the western hemisphere, it is now the fourth country in the world to eliminate the disease.
The country reached this milestone following a years-long effort led by the Guatemala Ministry of Health and a coalition of partners that includes the Mectizan Donation Program (MDP) at The Task Force. MDP manages Merck’s donation of anti-parasitic medicine to treat and eliminate the disease.
“We have now achieved elimination of onchocerciasis transmission in four of the six endemic countries in the western hemisphere,” said Adrian Hopkins, MD, who retired as MDP director on Oct. 17. “With continued partnership, commitment, and strong coordination, we can finish the job in Brazil and Venezuela.”
Hopkins added that cross-border disease transmission between Brazil and Venezuela remains a challenge to eliminating river blindness in these countries. “Our hope is that Brazil and Venezuela will show the rest of the world that cross-border challenges can be overcome,” he said.