Samoa has become the first country to implement the new triple drug regime recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for the treatment of lymphatic filariasis (LF), a neglected tropical disease.
Commonly known as elephantiasis, LF infection occurs when filarial parasites are transmitted to humans through mosquitoes. Infection is usually acquired in childhood and can cause hidden damage to the lymphatic system. In 1997, the Fiftieth World Health Assembly resolved to eliminate LF as a public health problem. In 2000, WHO launched the Global Programme to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis (GPELF), which has the goal of eliminating LF as a public health problem by 2020.
WHO published guidelines in 2017 on alternative mass drug administration (MDA) regimens to eliminate filariasis, in which IDA (a combination of ivermectin, diethylcarbamazine and albendazole) is recommended for annual treatment in settings where its use is expected to have the greatest impact. Annual mass treatment of the entire eligible population of Samoa began on 14 August 2018 and is expected to be completed by 26 August 2018.
The Ministry of Health of Samoa has prepared for this MDA campaign by implementing a renewed national lymphatic filariasis elimination action plan. More than 1,500 community health workers and youth groups have been trained in basic epidemiology and transmission of the disease, the elimination strategy and prevention and management of any adverse events which, although rare, are more likely to occur after infected people ingest the tablets. A comprehensive social mobilisation and advocacy campaign has also been implemented.
The Pacific Island nations that have eliminated lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem to date include the Cook Islands, Marshall Islands, Niue, Tonga and Vanuatu.
Source: WHO, 24 August 2018