A lot has happened in the approach to lymphatic filariasis. From being a neglected disease in the 1970s, clinical advances have revolutionised the approach to lymphoedema, according to Eric Ottesen, director, Neglected Tropical Diseases-Support Centre, Task Force for Global Health, U.S.
Delivering the second Dr. V. Kumaraswami Endowment Lecture at the National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis (NIRT) on Monday, he spoke on “solving the lymphatic filariasis problem through research”.
Talking about the Global Programme to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis, he said, “The goal is to eliminate lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem and stop the spread of infection by interrupting transmission and reduce suffering caused by the disease through morbidity control efforts,” he said.
There were 72 countries at the beginning of the global programme, he said, adding, “Some have achieved the elimination of filariasis as a public health problem, while others are in the surveillance stage and treatment stage.”
He pointed out that the cumulative treatment administered during the Mass Drug Administration (MDA) in 67 countries was 6.7 billion. “It took 90 years for a filariasis drug to be developed - Diethylcarbamazine (DEC), while ivermectin and albendazole are being used for the last 30 to 35 years,” he added.
Noting that there were two critical elements of success in the research on lymphatic filariasis, he said there was significant donor support for operational research and support from the scientific community. Among the challenges for operational research was the need for best tool to detect lymphatic filariasis for the end-game, need for best strategy to assess post-MDA period.
“To ensure success for our programme in the future, we need to demand quality performance in our work, and need translational research. It is necessary to foster interaction between research and programme managers and policy makers, work in global partnerships and multi-centre studies so that funding can be used by World Health Organisation to establish global guidelines,” he said.
He recalled the contribution of V. Kumaraswami, former director of the Tuberculosis Research Centre (now NIRT), in the field of lymphatic filariasis.
A book on lymphatic filariasis was released on the occasion. NIRT also released a commemorative book on him.