Lymphatic Filariasis (LF), or elephantiasis, is a painful, disfiguring disease spread by mosquitoes; and India bears approximately 40 per cent of the global LF burden. Maharashtra is one of the states with a higher incidence of LF, and health officials are actively considering the introduction of the triple-drug therapy.
Dr Balkrishna Kamble, assistant director, health (Filaria), Government of Maharashtra, told The Indian Express that decision regarding the rollout of the triple-drug therapy was yet to be taken.
However, a study conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research has revealed the safety and efficacy of IDA and health officials were considering a rolling it out in a phased manner in Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh), Nagpur (Maharashtra), Arwal (Bihar) and Simdega (Jharkhand) soon.
The disease can cause abnormal growth of body parts and can lead to disability, social stigma and isolation. Around the world, 67 million people are infected with up to 36 million disfigured or disabled by the disease. A new drug regimen called triple therapy, which uses Ivermectin, Diethylcarbamazine (DEC) and Albendazole (IDA) together to treat and prevent LF, has the potential to dramatically accelerate the pace of elimination in target countries, Dr N K Ganguly, former director general of ICMR told The Indian Express.
At a meeting held in Delhi on Wednesday, Union Health Minister J P Nadda launched an accelerated Plan for elimination of Lymphatic Filariasis and phased adoption of a new treatment strategy for India at the global meet. “We need to interrupt the transmission of the disease,” said Dr Eric Ottesen, director, Neglected Tropical Diseases Support Centre (NTD-SC), Global Task Force for Global Health.
Ottesen is part of the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis (GAELF) — a diverse group of public-private partners who are working towards eliminating Lymphatic Filariasis (LF). Formed in 2000, the Alliance brings together experts in the field of LF to discuss progress and challenges of the Global Programme to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis (GPELF), launched by the WHO. According to health officials, some of the biggest challenges on the ground include alarmingly low awareness and negligible attention given to eliminating LF in public and political discourse.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra is among the endemic states, with 17 such districts. These include Akola, Amravati, Bhandara, Chandrapur, Gadchiroli, Gondia, Jalgaon, Latur, Nagpur, Nanded, Thane, Nandurbar, Osmanabad, Sindhudurg, Solapur, Wardha, and Yawatmal.
According to state health officials, in 2017, Maharashtra had recorded 40,204 cases of lymphoedema and 24,951 cases of hydrocele among LF-infected patients, who suffer from chronic disability associated with the disease.