Health Programs

Lymphatic Filariasis Elimination Program

Photo Credit: GlaxoSmithKline

Albendazole (above), distributed with Mectizan annually, reduces infections by killing the microfilariae and stopping the transmission to new individuals. The combination of drugs is used to treat not only lymphatic filariasis but also river blindness in co-endemic regions.

How is lymphatic filariasis treated?

The strategy for treatment, and eventual elimination of lymphatic filariasis, is mass community drug distribution with medicines that kill the microfilariae and stop transmission of the parasite by mosquitoes. The Carter Center and its partners use the World Health Organization's recommended combination treatment comprised of two drugs: ivermectin (Mectizan®, donated by Merck & Co., Inc.) and albendazole (donated by GlaxoSmithKline). Combination treatment better reduces the number of microfilariae in blood.

The transmission of lymphatic filariasis is inefficient, a reason for the disease's potential for eradication. Studies have demonstrated that transmission of the infection can be broken when a single dose of combined oral medicines is consistently maintained annually for approximately seven years. In other words, with consistent treatment, the reduction of microfilariae means the disease is not being transmitted, the adult worms will die out, the cycle will be broken, and mass treatments can be halted.

Another important strategy that can be combined with mass treatment is the use of insecticide-treated mosquito bed nets, being advocated widely through Africa for control of malaria. Reducing mosquito bites adds another layer of prevention to stop lymphatic filariasis transmission.

Life Cycle of Lymphatic Filariasis
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The Range of Lymphatic Filariasis

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