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Bull World Health Organ. 1997;75(6):491-503.

Strategies and tools for the control/elimination of lymphatic filariasis.

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Division of Control of Tropical Diseases, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland.


Lymphatic filariasis infects 120 million people in 73 countries worldwide and continues to be a worsening problem, especially in Africa and the Indian subcontinent. Elephantiasis, lymphoedema, and genital pathology afflict 44 million men, women and children; another 76 million have parasites in their blood and hidden internal damage to their lymphatic and renal systems. In the past, tools and strategies for the control of the condition were inadequate, but over the last 10 years dramatic research advances have led to new understanding about the severity and impact of the disease, new diagnostic and monitoring tools, and, most importantly, new treatment tools and control strategies. The new strategy aims both at transmission control through community-wide (mass) treatment programmes and at disease control through individual patient management. Annual single-dose co-administration of two drugs (ivermectin + diethylcarbamazine (DEC) or albendazole) reduces blood microfilariae by 99% for a full year; even a single dose of one drug (ivermectin or DEC) administered annually can result in 90% reductions; field studies confirm that such reduction of microfilarial loads and prevalence can interrupt transmission. New approaches to disease control, based on preventing bacterial superinfection, can now halt or even reverse the lymphoedema and elephantiasis sequelae of filarial infection. Recognizing these remarkable technical advances, the successes of recent control programmes, and the biological factors favouring elimination of this infection, the Fiftieth World Health Assembly recently called on WHO and its Member States to establish as a priority the global elimination of lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem.

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