By NewsDesk  @bactiman63

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced recently that Malawi has been validated to have eliminated lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem.

Elephantiasis of leg due to filariasis/CDC

MSD, 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.”