This blog was reposted from End the Neglect, a blog by the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases

By Amy Alabaster

Earlier this month, the journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases published some very exciting news – Togo is about to become the first sub-Saharan African country to eliminate lymphatic filariasis (LF), a painful and disabling neglected tropical disease (NTD) also known as elephantiasis.

At the Global Network our goal is to help end the seven most common neglected tropical diseases, along with all the pain and stigma, all the negative repercussions on health AND development. The success in Togo shows that we can reach elimination targets using the affordable and effective tools we already have at our disposal. Regions in Guatemala and Mexico have also successfully interrupted transmission of onchocerciasis, another one of the most common NTDs, adding further proof that we can see the end of NTDs in our lifetime.

In the PLoS Speaking of Medicine Blog Dr. Peter Hotez, President of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Editor of PLoS NTDs, writes:

“The importance of the paper stems from the fact that it provides further proof of principle that sub-Saharan African nations are building on their previous successes in elimination or eradication of selected neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) including dracunculiasis (guinea worm) in most of the region, onchocerciasis (river blindness) in two countries, and human African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) in more than a dozen countries.”

Dr. Hotez goes on to explain how he believes the “stars should align” to achieve global elimination of NTDs.

“I am very excited about the results coming out of Togo, which give me cause for great optimism and hope” he concludes.

Togo moves towards LF elimination

An estimated 120 million people worldwide are affected by lymphatic filariasis (LF), a parasitic disease spread by the bite of infected mosquitoes. Without treatment, LF can cause extreme swelling of the extremities causing great pain and disfigurement.

Togo is one of the 34 African countries endemic for lymphatic filariasis and is surrounded by the endemic countries of Benin, Ghana, and Burkina Faso. Following WHO suggestions, Togo founded the National Program to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis (NPELF) in 2000, with dual goals to 1) prevent LF transmission through mass drug administration (MDA) and 2) manage symptoms of those already affected.

As reported, Togo is on its way to confirmed interruption of LF transmission, meaning that they’ve successfully stopped the spread of the disease from person to person so that no new cases occur. After a 5-year surveillance phase, which started in 2010, the country can make the successful completion of this target official.

See the paper to learn more