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Malawi Becomes The Second Country in Sub-Saharan Africa To Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis (Elephantiasis)

 LILONGWE, Malawi, Oct. 28, 2020 /PRNewswire/ --

Today the World Health Organization (WHO) announced in this week's WHO Weekly Epidemiological Record that Malawi has been validated to have eliminated lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem.

MSD (trade name of Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, N.J., USA), GSK, and the Mectizan Donation Program congratulate President Lazarus Chakwera, the government, and the people of Malawi for this remarkable achievement that has alleviated suffering for millions and highlights the perseverance of many dedicated partners. Malawi is only the second country in sub-Saharan Africa to mark this achievement.

Lymphatic filariasis (LF), commonly known as elephantiasis, is a debilitating disease caused by a parasite transmitted to humans through the bites of mosquitoes. According to WHO, elephantiasis is found in 73 countries around the world with an estimated 120 million people infected. Long-term, chronic infection causes damage to the lymphatic system, and severe and irreversible swelling to the limbs, breasts, and/or genitals. These symptoms cause extreme discomfort, disability, and social stigmatization.

 

A WHO resolution to achieve the goal of global LF elimination was passed by the World Health Assembly in 1997. In countries where LF and another parasitic disease called river blindness are co-endemic, WHO recommends co-administering two medicines, albendazole and ivermectin to achieve LF elimination. In 1998, GSK announced the donation of albendazole for the elimination of LF and MSD expanded its donation of Mectizan® (ivermectin) through the Mectizan Donation Program to include the elimination of LF in countries where the disease co-exists with river blindness. In 2017, in support of new WHO guidelines, MSD's donation of Mectizan was once again expanded to provide up to 100 million additional treatments per year through 2025 to support the elimination of LF globally in countries where onchocerciasis is not endemic.

 

Since 1999 GSK has donated 9 billion doses of albendazole through the WHO to support efforts to end LF in 65 endemic countries. MSD has donated over 3.76 billion doses to control and eliminate river blindness and LF.

"We celebrate this important achievement with the government and the people of Malawi," said Ms. Carmen Villar, Vice President for Social Business Innovation at MSD. "Lymphatic filariasis is a debilitating, but preventable disease. We are proud to be part of a global partnership focused on its elimination and improving the lives of tens of millions of people."

 

Fiona Smith-Laittan, VP of Global Health at GSK, said: "We congratulate the government of Malawi for this significant achievement in ending suffering caused by LF. GSK is committed to improving global health, and we have partnered with WHO, MSD, governments, and partners for over two decades in the Global Program to Eliminate LF. We continue to be inspired by the dedication of the Ministries of Health, frontline health workers, and communities fighting this debilitating disease."

The Mectizan Donation Program's director, Dr. Yao Sodahlon, an expert in tropical diseases who played a critical role in the elimination of LF from Togo stated "I am thrilled to see another country in Africa be validated by WHO for eliminating LF. I congratulate Malawi for this remarkable achievement and commend the Ministry of Health for its steadfast commitment since the LF elimination program began in 2008. The effort to achieve consistently high coverage with Mectizan and albendazole paid off as Malawi becomes the second country in sub-Saharan Africa to eliminate LF."

 

 

Tags:Malawi Becomes The Second Country in Sub-Saharan Africa To Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis (Elephantiasis)
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