Lymphatic Filariasis

Lymphatic filariasis (LF) is a parasitic disease transmitted to humans through the bites of mosquitoes. Over time, infection can damage the lymphatic system leading to severe swelling of the limbs and genitals resulting in disability and social stigma. One of the neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), LF threatens almost 857 million people in 53 countries in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and South America.

At Risk

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People Infected by Lymphatic Filariasis (Uniting to Combat NTDs)
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of Countries Warrant Interventions but have No Interventions Ongoing (Uniting to Combat NTDs)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has set a goal of eliminating LF as a public health problem worldwide by 2020. The global elimination program uses mass drug administration (MDA) of anti-parasitic medicines to prevent new infections and new cases where the disease is endemic

Interrupting the transmission of LF globally requires repeated annual MDA in endemic communities for six or more years. The global elimination program is expected to accelerate starting in 2018 with the adoption of new mass treatment approaches, increased country-level uptake of drug donations, and advances in operational research.

The Task Force for Global Health contributes to the global LF elimination program by hosting one of the major global drug donation programs of anti-parasitic medicines and driving operational research to improve programmatic outcomes.

Supporting Mass Treatment Programs for LF Elimination

As an NTD program at The Task Force, the Mectizan® Donation Program (MDP), manages the donation of Mectizan® (ivermectin), an anti-parasitic drug donated by Merck. Initially established in 1987 to manage the donation of Mectizan® for river blindness (onchocerciasis), MDP was expanded in 1998 when Merck committed to donate Mectizan® for the elimination of LF in African countries where onchocerciasis and LF are co-endemic. In these settings, Mectizan® is co-administered with albendazole (donated by GSK), per World Health Organization recommendations.

As part of its stewardship of Merck’s in-kind donations, MDP regularly convenes the Mectizan Expert Committee, which reviews and approves countries’ applications for Mectizan®. Currently, MDP manages annual donations of more than 257 million treatments with Mectizan® and albendazole for LF elimination.

In 2017, WHO recommended the use of a novel triple-drug therapy for LF under certain conditions in countries without river blindness. The three medicines are Mectizan®, diethylcarbamazine, and albendazole. The new therapy – also known as “IDA” (ivermectin, DEC, albendazole) – holds the potential to accelerate LF elimination in countries where the disease is endemic. The Task Force and MDP are working with governmental agencies, Merck, endemic countries, and other partners to establish protocols for administering the triple-drug-therapy on a large scale. 

Driving Operational Research to Improve LF Elimination Program Outcomes

As an NTD program at The Task Force, the Mectizan® Donation Program (MDP), manages the donation of Mectizan® (ivermectin), an anti-parasitic drug donated by Merck. Initially established in 1987 to manage the donation of Mectizan® for river blindness (onchocerciasis), MDP was expanded in 1998 when Merck committed to donate Mectizan® for the elimination of LF in African countries where onchocerciasis and LF are co-endemic. In these settings, Mectizan® is co-administered with albendazole (donated by GSK), per World Health Organization recommendations.

As part of its stewardship of Merck’s in-kind donations, MDP regularly convenes the Mectizan® Expert Committee (MEC), which reviews and approves countries’ applications for Mectizan®. Currently, MDP manages annual donations of more than 257 million treatments with Mectizan® and albendazole for LF elimination.

In 2017, WHO recommended the use of a novel triple-drug therapy for LF under certain conditions in countries without river blindness. The three medicines are Mectizan®, diethylcarbamazine, and albendazole. The new therapy – also known as “IDA” (ivermectin, DEC, albendazole) – holds the potential to accelerate LF elimination in countries where the disease is endemic. The Task Force and MDP are working with governmental agencies, Merck, endemic countries, and other partners to establish protocols for administering the triple-drug-therapy on a large scale. 

Results

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Countries Eliminated Lymphatic Filariasis (WHO)
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Lymphatic Filariasis​ Treatments Donated in 2018 (Uniting to Combat NTDs)

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Pat Lammie, PhD

Director, Neglected Tropical Diseases Support Center

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To find out where we work on lymphatic filariasis, click here and look under MDP and NTD-SC.

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Header photo caption: A clinician examines a patient’s case of elephantiasis which is caused by lymphatic filariasis going untreated.

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