Lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis) is one of the most debilitating and disfiguring of all diseases.
One of the most prevalent of tropical diseases, it is also among the most neglected, because it afflicts poor people in both urban and rural areas. Rarely fatal, it causes extensive disability, gross disfigurement and untold suffering for millions: young and old; men, women and children.
In every community where it occurs, this disease remains a strong impediment to socioeconomic development.
Simple methods to relieve elephantiasis
Three major needs were identified to alleviate lymphatic filariasis:
- effective, safe drugs;
- simple, inexpensive delivery systems;
- quick and accurate diagnostics.
All have appeared over the past few years, along with much greater understanding of all aspects of the disease itself. Proven means are now available to eliminate lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem.
Do we really want to eliminate one of the world’s most depressing diseases? Can we stimulate the necessary political will and community support? Can we find and coordiante the necessary resources? There is unchallenged potential to place lymphatic filariasis alongside smallpox as having been eradicated from the face of the Earth by concerted human action. Mectizan, donated free of charge by Merck, and Albandazole, donated free of charge by GlaxoWelcome, have been shown to disrupt the transmission of lymphatic filariasis. The challenge is to bring these drugs to endemic areas and establish distribution systems that will deliver the drugs to people for as long as they are needed.