Two decades of work sees horror disease defeated
James Cook University scientists have played a part in a program that has seen lymphatic filariasis (LF) —also known as elephantiasis— eliminated from four countries.
After more than two decades of effort, Cambodia, The Cook Islands, Niue and Vanuatu have eliminated LF as a public health problem.
LF can lead to lymphoedema, elephantiasis and hydrocoele - huge swelling of the limbs and genitals of sufferers. It’s caused by parasitic worms transmitted between humans by mosquitoes, a process that has now been effectively interrupted.
Approximately 40 million people suffer from the disease, including 15 million who have full-blown lymphoedema (elephantiasis) and 25 million men who have urogenital swelling.
JCU scientists developed an efficient diagnostic test for the disease, enabling effective targeting and supported ongoing training and surveillance to prevent new infections.
JCU’s Professor Peter Leggat said LF is one of the most debilitating of the neglected tropical diseases.
“Elimination of LF is the result of the sustained efforts of many groups including the countries involved and international agencies including the WHO Collaborating Centre at James Cook University, established in 1996. These efforts provide inspiration to eliminate this disease from the world,” he said.
The four countries that have eliminated the disease join China and the Republic of Korea as the only countries in the WHO Western Pacific Region to eliminate LF as a public health problem.
During 2000–2012, more than 4.45 billion doses of medicine were delivered worldwide. It’s estimated that 96.71 million LF cases were prevented or cured during this period.
The overall economic benefit of the programme during 2000–2007 is conservatively estimated at US$ 24 billion.
Links to JCU website:
WHO press release:
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The support provided by JCU has included:
Development and testing of vital diagnostic tests for filariasis antigen.
Conducting LF prevalence and morbidity surveys.
Advising on LF epidemiology, surveillance and serosurveillance strategies.
Assistance in monitoring and evaluation, guideline development and geospatial analysis.
Teaching and training courses, and supervising graduate student projects.
Research, promotion and training in epidemiology, entomology, and morbidity management and disability prevention.
Support to program implementation, drug supply and logistics.
Assisting with summarizing and reporting progress to confirm elimination and service on many WPRO, SEARO and WHO HQ NTD technical committees.