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article imageDevastating elephantiasis disease facing elimination

By Tim Sandle     Dec 28, 2016 in Health
Warwick - The disabling parasitic disease which causes elephantiasis, and threatens around one billion people globally – Lymphatic filariasis - is close to elimination due to new research from the University of Warwick.
The news is significant, given that one billion people in 54 countries live with threat of disease, and where the disease causes serve disability. The new research takes the form of a mathematical model, where the computer program assesses the potential impact of treating and preventing disease with three drugs.
Lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis) is a human disease caused by parasitic worms known as filarial worms (a superfamily of nematodes). Many people become infected with the worms, although in the majority of cases there are no symptoms. However, with some people the disease leads to a syndrome called elephantiasis. This condition is marked by severe swelling in the arms, legs, or genitals. In addition, the skin of the affected person becomes thicker and the person can be in considerable pain.
The worms are spread by the bites of infected mosquitoes, and there are three types of worm that can cause the disease, although Wuchereria bancrofti is the most widespread. Once in the bloodstream, the worms go on to damage the lymphatic system.
In a breakthrough for combating the disease, British scientists have found out that if a recently proposed combination of three particular drugs is used together, the disease can be prevented or treated rapidly, in a maximum amount of people, using fewer rounds of drugs. Currently a two-drug regime is used.
The finding that a three-drug combination is necessary required a complex model, and supporting clinical evidence. The model was developed by a team led by Dr Deirdre Hollingsworth, who heads up the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) Modelling Consortium. The drugs used were: ivermectin, diethylcarbamazine, and albendazole.
In a statement sent to Digital Journal, Dr Hollingsworth said: “This more effective treatment has the potential to revolutionise the control of this disease, but it will require that in over a few rounds of treatment the programs are able to treat almost the whole population, even the most inaccessible."
The research is published in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases and it is headed "Effectiveness of a triple-drug regimen for global elimination of lymphatic filariasis: a modelling study."
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