The entire eligible population of Samoa will have been treated with the new triple drug regimen recommended by WHO for the treatment of lymphatic filariasis (LF), a disabling and disfiguring neglected tropical disease tomorrow.

Samoa mapIn 2017, WHO published guidelines on alternative mass drug administration (MDA) regimens to eliminate filariasis, in which IDA (that is, a combination of ivermectin, diethylcarbamazine and albendazole) is recommended for annual treatment in settings where its use is expected to have the greatest impact.

“Together with the Ministry of Health Samoa, we have ensured that dispositions are in place to enable the mass treatment of an estimated 180 000 people as part of their renewed national plan to eliminate lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem” said Dr Rasul Baghirov, WHO Representative in Samoa. “With the support of partners and donated medicines from the pharmaceutical industry, the Government of Samoa has been demonstrating its strong commitment to ensure that filariasis is finally eliminated from Samoa”.

Health teams in all communities started mass treatment of children in primary schools and made house-to-house visits to provide the treatment to all eligible individuals in the community in Savaii, the largest island of Samoa. Health workers and volunteers ensured that people took the medication under their direct supervision.

Elephantiasis of leg due to filariasis/CDC
Elephantiasis of leg due to filariasis/CDC

“Engaging communities and making sure everyone takes the medication is crucial to ensure success through the use of this new treatment regimen, and thereby accelerate the achievement of elimination” said Dr Rabindra Abeyasinghe, acting Director of Division of Communicable Disease of WHO’s Regional Office for the Western Pacific. “We are encouraged to note the careful planning and preparations, including communication and training of health workers and volunteers that has preceded the implementation of this Campaign and are hopeful that the community will respond positively.”

Lymphatic filariasis in Nigeria: The battle against the disfiguring parasitic disease

LF, commonly known as elephantiasis, is a parasitic disease of humans transmitted by mosquitoes. Infection is usually acquired in childhood and causes hidden damage to the lymphatic system. The painful and profoundly disfiguring visible manifestations of the disease, notably lymphoedema, elephantiasis and scrotal swelling, occur later in life and lead to permanent disability.

The Pacific Island nations that have eliminated lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem include Cook Islands, Marshall Islands, Niue, Tonga and Vanuatu.