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Thursday, 20 January, 2000, 10:19 GMT
3m to eradicate disfiguring disease
Elephantiasis
Elephantiasis can be hugely disfiguring
The UK government is to donate 3m to an international drive to rid the world of the disfiguring disease elephantiasis.

Elephantiasis, or Lymphatic Filariasis (LF), affects 120m people in 80 countries world-wide, particularly the poor.
Initiatives like this will make the difference between whether people in those countries live long and fulfilling lives, unfettered by this disability, or continue to exist on the margins of health

George Foulkes, International Development Minister
Nearly half of all LF cases are in India and Nigeria, but around 1bn people are thought to be at risk in tropical Africa, Asia, the Pacific and the Americas.

LF has been identified as the second leading cause of long-term disability world-wide, behind visual impairment.

The disease, spread by a mosquito, is not life-threatening, but it causes disfigurement with unsightly and disabling swelling of limbs and organs.

Sufferers also experience social isolation, with their chances for economic independence hugely limited by their disability.

In spite of its prevalence, treatments for LF are available, and there is real hope that it could be wiped out within 20 years.

UK International Development Minister George Foulkes announced on Thursday that the British government would make 3m available to help fund the initiative.

Support centre

Mosquito
Elephantiasis is spread by mosquitoes
The money will help to fund a Lymphatic Filariasis Support Centre, based at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.

The campaign is also backed by the World Health Organization (WHO), World Bank, the pharmaceutical industry and health institutions world-wide.

Mr Foulkes, speaking at a conference on the campaign at the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, called on other donors to join the fight to rid developing countries of the disease.

He said: "Initiatives like this will make the difference between whether people in those countries live long and fulfilling lives, unfettered by this disability, or continue to exist on the margins of health.

"We want to see the LF initiative succeed. Not only for the obvious benefit of eliminating a disease which affects a large number of people in many poor countries, but because we believe in the principles of public/private partnership for international health and want to see these principles in action."

LF is spread when mosquitoes bite those already infected with the disease, and ingest a microscopic lava, known as microfilariae.

This parasite is passed on when the mosquitoes bite healthy people.

A new card test can detect LF in finger-prick blood tests, and treatment consists of a single dose of two drugs in combination.

See also:

19 Jan 00 | Health
06 Jan 00 | Africa
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