Monday, July 15, 2024 | 21:56 WIB

The long road to defeating neglected tropical diseases

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Jakarta, IO – Neglected Tropical Disease (“NTD”) Day is commemorated on the last Sunday of January each year. With their sunny climes and much rain and humidity, tropical countries naturally harbor many tropical diseases, unique to the region. While the WHO has categorized 20 diseases as NTDs, Indonesia only prioritizes eight for elimination: leprosy, yaws, filariasis, schistosomiasis, worm infestation, taeniasis, dengue fever, chikungunya and rabies. 

Right now, among the one billion people distributed throughout the 72 countries where filariasis is endemic, 120 million people are infected by the disease, with 36 million disabled because of it. In Indonesia alone, 8,635 people are recorded as suffering from chronic filariasis in 2022. 

“236 regencies and municipalities in 28 provinces are endemic for filariasis, with 183 of them currently undergoing pre-elimination assessment surveillance. 32 regencies and municipalities being certified filariasis-free, with 5 more ready to receive their filariasis elimination certificate in 2023. The provinces with the highest number of cases are, in order: Papua (3,629 cases), East Nusa Tenggara (1,276), West Papua (620), Aceh (507), West Java (424), East Java (241), and Jambi (224). The disease is mitigated by administering drugs, as a means of mass prevention, in residents aged two years and above in endemic areas, and by implementing procedures to limit the extent and severity of disability resulting from the disease,” reported dr. Imran Pambudi, MPHM, Director of the Prevention and Control of Communicable Diseases at the Ministry of Health’s Directorate General of the Prevention and Control of Diseases, during the Ministry’s NTD Day media meet on Monday (30/01/2023). 

In the initial stages, filariasis patients feel healthy because there is no pain or swelling. However, if the blood is tested at night, young filaria worms will be discovered, having entered the body from a mosquito bite, after the insect has previously ingested infected blood from a cat, dog, or monkey. 

Filariasis, which may cause permanent disability or economic / psychological burdens, is caused by the Wachereria bancrofti, Brugia malayi, and Brugia timori worms. The Wacheria worm triggers extended swelling from the limbs to the sexual organs – from the legs to the scrotum among men, and from the legs to the breasts among women. The Brugia malayi worms will only cause swelling in the legs below the knee. The disease is especially pernicious because it causes massive swelling, yet with no pain whatsoever. 

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