Public Health Ministry adopts new drug in fight to eliminate filaria

DPI, Guyana, Monday, October 8, 2018

The Ministry of Public Health is to add a third medication to two pills which are currently used in Mass Drug Administration (MDA) in the fight against Lymphatic Filariasis (LF).

Ivermectin is an oral medication which paralyses or kills the microfilariae gradually. This medication is used to treat certain parasitic worm infections in the human body. Also, it can be regarded as a more effective treatment regimen for sterilizing the adult worm in the lymphatic system which later on in life causes Filaria. The two, currently pills being prescribed, are Diethylcarbamazine (DEC) and Albendazole.

According to Dr. Fabu Moses-Stuart, the National Coordinator for the Neglected Infectious Diseases attached to the Ministry of Public Health, this intervention will come on stream in 2019. The introduction of Ivermectin will be preceded by an accessibility study where Vector Control Services will oversee a random house to house survey where people will be asked their views on the new pill.

“Ivermectin, in combination (with DEC and albendazole) has been proven to present superior parasite killing effects on microfilariae which includes sterilization of the adult worm for longer periods of up to two years with one single treatment,” Moses-Stuart explained.

She added that the addition of this third pill to the prevention regimen for filaria “shortens the course needed for MDA from five years to only two years if done correctly”. This new pill has little to no side effects in an individual and significantly reduces the heavy worm burden present in the body.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1987, the manufacturer of Ivermectin – Merck & Co., Inc. – declared that it would donate it free of charge for as long as needed. This unprecedented donation is administered through the Mectizan Donation Programme, which works with ministries of health and other partners to distribute the drug.

At the launch of the Mass Drug Administration against filaria, the NID National Coordinator indicated that the Public Health Ministry has actually adopted three new interventions within the last year, intensifying efforts in the fight against filaria.

This, she said, was backed by strong scientific evidence and supported by empirical evidence from countries within and outside of this Caribbean region. The other two interventions along with the use of Ivermectin are the remapping of the other six regions not yet targeted for MDA and lymphatic drainage and limb reduction.

By: Delicia Haynes.

Images: Jameel Mohamed.

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