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Lymphatic Filariasis (LF) commonly known as elephantiasis is an infectious tropical disease transmitted to humans through mosquitoes. Lymphatic Filariasis is present in Western Kenya where we see firsthand the devastating effect of LF in individuals who must live with the disfigurement and social stigma associated with the disease. We have seen thirteen year old children with swollen feet and legs caused by LF.
Transmission of LF occurs when a mosquito bites an infected person ingests microfilariae and deposits them into the skin of uninfected humans. Control of this disease can be accomplished through mass drug administration (MDA) annually of two medicines given together, albendazole and ivermectin, which kill the filariae in infected individuals and ultimately can eliminate disease when mosquitoes no longer have infected people to bite.
In 2007 we verified with antigen tests the presence of the disease and developed a treatment strategy. We are now entering the fourth year of a MDA pilot program giving albendazole and ivermectin to 10,000 persons annually in the Ikolomani District of the Western Province of Kenya.
In addition to MDA we have begun to give a six week course of Doxycycline to individuals with swollen feet and legs caused by LF. For these affected individuals studies have shown that Doxycycline kills the adult worms, improves the function of lymphatic vessels and for early to moderate cases reduces lymph edema significantly. We are also expanding our foot care program in the region for those with significant disease.
The greatest benefit of our MDA program will be those who do not become infected and the minimally infected in whom the progression of the disease will be prevented.
This program is also vital to children in the treatment of chronic intestinal worms which afflict 90% of the children in this poverty stricken rural area. With the assistance of school administrators MDA is given annually to the children of the area.
At present 10,000 people benefit from this program, but another 125,000 individuals in this area alone would benefit if funds were available to extend MDA in the region.
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