Lymphatic filariasis is one of the oldest and most debilitating neglected tropical diseases. Lymphatic filariasis is caused by parasitic worms of nematodes family of Filariodidae that are transmitted to humans by mosquitoes of the genus Culex, Anopheles and Aedes.
An estimated 120 million people from 81 countries are infected with lymphatic filariasis. An estimated 1.43 billion live in areas where filariasis is endemic and are at risk of infection. Approximately 65% of those at risk reside in WHO’s South-East Asia Region, 30% in the African Region and the remainder in other parts of the tropical world.
The most common clinical manifestations of lymphatic filariasis include lymphoedema and scrotal hydrocele. These two manifestations adversely affect personal and social life, and limit occupational activities, making lymphatic filariasis the second leading cause of chronic disability worldwide.
In 1998, a pharmaceutical company announced its commitment to collaborate with WHO by providing albendazole free of charge for as long as needed to eliminate the disease. The donating pharmaceutical company expanded its donation programme for onchocerciasis to provide ivermectin for lymphatic filariasis elimination in all countries where lymphatic filariasis and onchocerciasis were co-endemic.
Lymphatic filariasis in the Eastern Mediterranean Region
Eastern Mediterranean region has an estimated at-risk population of 12.6 million people, accounting for approximately 1% of the global disease burden.
Lymphatic filariasis is endemic in Egypt, Sudan, South Sudan and Yemen. In Sudan, South Sudan and Yemen, lymphatic filariasis is co-endemic with onchocerciasis. The situation in four other countries remains uncertain and needs epidemiological investigation: Djibouti, Islamic Republic of Iran, Saudi Arabia and Somalia.
In 2000, the Regional Committee for Eastern Mediterranean approved resolution (EM/RC47/R.11) urging Member States with present transmission or a history of transmission to make national epidemiological assessments of the disease, to strengthen filariasis management, surveillance, information and evaluation systems, and to develop a time-bound national plan for eliminating the disease in line with the strategies adopted by WHO.