Kenya is the first country in Africa to pilot a new treatment for elephantiasis, the Health ministry has announced.
The triple drug therapy, known as IDA, is a combination of three drugs for lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis) with potential to reduce treatment time considerably.
Speaking to End Fund — a private philanthropic initiative dedicated to some neglected tropical diseases — the head of Neglected Tropical Diseases at the Ministry of Health Dr Sultani Matendechero, said: “This is going to have a lot of benefit to our people because we will shorten the period of elimination from five years to two years, and then there are additional benefits in terms of clearing things like scabies, which comes with the triple drug therapy approach.”
Mr Trevor Mundel, the president of Global Health at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, posted on his Twitter account thus: “The Gates Foundation is proud to support the Kenyan government’s launch of the first IDA pilot in Africa.”
Lymphatic filariasis, commonly known as elephantiasis, is one of 18 little known diseases clustered by the WHO as neglected tropical diseases.
It occurs when filarial worms find their way into the lymph nodes. The worms stretch these nodes until lymph fluid can only flow downwards causing swelling of limbs and the scrotum in men.
An estimated 3,700,000 people living in Kwale, Tana Tiver, Kilifi, Mombasa and Lamu are at risk of infection with this disease.
The current treatment regimen consists of diethylcarbamazine and albendazole. The new treatment adds to ivermectin to the regimen, a combination that studies have shown reduces treatment time.
Kenya is marked as a standard unit from where other countries affected by elephantiasis can gain insight on eliminating the disease, as well as stay on the path to join another 14 countries that have eliminated the disease.