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Lymphatic Filariasis

  • 14 Aug 2023
  • 4 min read

Source: PIB

Why in News?

Recently, the Union Health Minister inaugurated the second phase of the Annual Nationwide Mass Drug Administration (MDA) initiative for Lymphatic Filariasis.

  • India aims to eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis by 2027, three years ahead of the global target, through a mission-driven strategy.

What is Lymphatic Filariasis?

  • About:
    • Lymphatic filariasis, commonly known as elephantiasis, is a neglected tropical disease caused by parasitic infection which is transmitted through the bite of infected mosquitoes.
    • This impacts millions of individuals in tropical and subtropical regions across the globe.
  • Causes and Transmission:
    • Lymphatic filariasis is caused by infection with parasites classified as nematodes (roundworms) of the family Filariodidea.
    • There are 3 types of these thread-like filarial worms:
      • Wuchereria bancrofti, which is responsible for 90% of the cases,
      • Brugia malayi, which causes most of the remainder of the cases,
      • Brugia timori, which also causes the disease.
  • Symptoms:
    • Lymphatic filariasis infection involves asymptomatic, acute, and chronic conditions.
      • In chronic conditions, it leads to lymphoedema (tissue swelling) or elephantiasis (skin/tissue thickening) of limbs and hydrocele (scrotal swelling).
  • Treatment:
    • The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends three drug treatments to accelerate the global elimination of lymphatic filariasis. The treatment, known as IDA, involves a combination of ivermectin, diethylcarbamazine citrate and albendazole.
      • The plan is to administer these drugs for two consecutive years. The life of the adult worm is hardly four years, so it would die a natural death without causing any harm to the person.
  • Global Threat and Preventive Measures:
    • Over 882 million people in 44 countries face the threat of lymphatic filariasis and require preventive chemotherapy.
    • Preventive measures involve mass drug administration (MDA) to the at-risk population using safe medicine combinations.
    • More than 9 billion treatments have been administered since 2000 to halt infection spread.
  • Progress and Achievements:
    • Successful MDA efforts have reduced transmission and infection prevalence.
    • 740 million people no longer require preventive chemotherapy.
    • In 2018, 51 million people were infected, marking a 74% reduction since the initiation of global elimination efforts.
  • Vector Control and WHO's Approach:
    • Mosquito control, such as insecticide-treated nets and indoor residual spraying, supplements preventive chemotherapy.
    • WHO's Global Programme to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis (GPELF) launched in 2000 with a mission to eradicate the disease.
      • GPELF aims to validate elimination in 80% of endemic countries by achieving sustained low infection rates and providing care.
      • The program strives for post-MDA surveillance in all endemic countries and ultimately reduces the population needing MDA to zero.
    • The strategy focuses on stopping infection spread and providing essential care to affected individuals.

What are India's Initiatives for Lymphatic Filariasis Eradication?

  • Nationwide Mass Drug Administration campaigns administer preventive medicines in endemic areas.
  • Collaboration with various stakeholders, sectors, and NGOs enhances the initiative's impact.
  • “Through Jan Bhagidaari and ‘Whole of Government’ and ‘Whole of Society’ approach, India shall be able to eliminate this disease from the country”.
  • Second phase of the MDA initiative targets 81 districts in 9 endemic states for targeted intervention. (Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Odisha, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh).
  • State-central collaborations enhance healthcare, surveillance, prevention, and treatment.
  • Encouraging medication consumption in the presence of healthcare workers promotes adherence.
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