RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK — RTI International, a nonprofit research institute and leading international development organization, joins the Lao People’s Democratic Republic [Laos] (Lao PDR), World Health Organization, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in celebrating Lao PDR’s achievement of eliminating lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem.
Also known as elephantiasis, lymphatic filariasis is a neglected tropical disease (NTD) that can cause swollen extremities in a person and lead to severe disfigurement and disability, as well as social and economic discrimination against those affected. As of the latest data released by WHO last week, more than 793 million people required treatment for this disease across 44 countries in Asia, Africa, the Western Pacific, and parts of the Caribbean and South America. WHO officially confirmed this week that the people of Lao PDR are no longer at risk of contracting the disease.
“RTI sends our sincerest congratulations to the government of Lao PDR and its people for solving this pressing public health problem,” said Tim Gabel, president and CEO of RTI International. “It is particularly significant given that Lao PDR achieved the elimination of trachoma as public health problem in 2017, demonstrating the power of national commitment to ending neglected tropical diseases.”
RTI supported this milestone through its leadership of USAID’s Act to End NTDs | East program, which has advanced the sustainable control and elimination of NTDs in 13 countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America. RTI worked with the government of Lao PDR to compile the data and information needed to establish proof that the country had eliminated lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem. Additionally, with USAID support, RTI assisted the government to develop a plan to monitor and track progress against the disease to ensure elimination is sustained in the future.
“Lao PDR is the latest example of a country that worked hard to go the last mile to reach lymphatic filariasis elimination and free its people from this disabling disease,” said Lisa Rotondo, Director of USAID’s Act to End NTDs | East program at RTI. “Global momentum towards eliminating lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem, led by countries themselves, is only growing. We are proud to be among the partners that supported the Lao PDR Ministry of Health to achieve this important milestone for its people.”
The elimination of lymphatic filariasis in Lao PDR was supported by many partners including USAID, RTI, FHI360, WHO, Mac Foundation, and the Asian Development Bank. In addition, albendazole treatments were donated by GlaxoSmithKline through the WHO donation program for NTD medicines.
The Southeast Asian country now becomes the 19th country to have achieved validation of lymphatic filariasis elimination, marking another important public health milestone for the country and globally.
Recently, Bangladesh also eliminated lymphatic filariasis with support from the Act to End NTDs | East program, led by RTI.