Humanity is making sterling progress on reducing the global prevalence of the tropical disease lymphatic filariasis.
Scientists conducting a review for the journal Lancet used almost 15,000 different global locations to estimate that the burden of the disease—commonly known as elephantiasis—was around 199 million infections in 2000. The disease is caused by a parasitic worm, often causing preventable but severe disabilities like hydrocele and lymphoedema.
Over the last 20 years, however, the number of people infected has dropped by 74%, from 199 million to 51.4 million, and last year three countries—Malawi, Kiribati, and Yemen—eliminated it altogether.
In the year 2000, the World Health Organization launched a campaign to eliminate the disease which occurs across both tropics, and is very prevalent in Southeast Asia, Africa, and South America.
South and Southeast Asia have always registered the highest average infection rates, and today Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, and Indonesia represent 52% of global cases.
“Overall, our results demonstrate the success of the Global Programme to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis, reflecting the contribution of donated therapeutics and community-based public health interventions to achieving elimination of a disease that is prevalent among some of the most resource-limited settings in the world,” reads the study, published in Lancet.
The WHO defines it as a neglected tropical disease, and the prevention strategies can be as simple as skin hygiene and community education.