Sunday 13 July 2014     16 Ramadhan 1435
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Single strategy targets malaria, elephantiasis

Nigerian health authorities have begun an elimination programme target two separate diseases caused by the same vector anopheles mosquito, which carries both malaria and lymphatic filariasis.

New guidelines worked on last week in Abuja by disease-elimination experts hope to combine interventions against both diseases into a single campaign against anopheles mosquito.

Combining strategies that include drugs, use of insecticide-treated nets and prevention campaigns could bring down morbidity and mortality associated with both malaria and lymphatic filariasis—also known as elephantiasis because of the swelling it causes to the limbs of affected people, according to Benjamin Nwobi, resident programme advisor for a national project on neglected tropical diseases.

“We are interested in eliminating that problem, stopping the morbidity and mortality. So we are targeting that vector and the diseases on the two sides—lymphatic filariasis and malaria, by joining our efforts to gain from synergy, more efficient use of resources,” Nwobi said.

“If we have a roadmap that guides the co-implementation, we can actually achieve good results.”

The new guidelines will be put to pilot test in one state in each of six geopolitical zone—Bauchi, Anambra, Cross River, Ondo, Jigawa and Niger.

“Any result in a state should give us an idea what can happen in that zone,” said Joel Akinla of the National Malaria Control Programme.

The trial is expected to last six years, and possibly expand to cover the entire country.

Malaria is widespread in Nigeria, and elephantiasis is endemic in up to 96% of local government areas nationwide, experts have said.