News / Health

Treated Bed Nets Critical to Eradicating Debilitating Tropical Disease

FILE - A leg disfigured by elephantiasis, Egypt, Oct. 3, 2004.
FILE - A leg disfigured by elephantiasis, Egypt, Oct. 3, 2004.
TEXT SIZE - +
— Inexpensive bed nets treated with insecticide may hold the key to eradicating a debilitating disease that threatens one-fifth of the world's population - mainly those living in Southeast Asia and Africa.

Scientists say they have been able to demonstrate that the most common cause of the tropical disease elephantiasis can be virtually eradicated - even in lieu of medication - if those at risk sleep under nets treated with chemicals that kill mosquitoes.

Lisa Reimer, a lecturer at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, was part of the team in Papua New Guinea studying progress over several years in eliminating the disease, caused by tiny worms most frequently injected into people by mosquitoes.

Reimer tells VOA she was surprised at how effective anti-malaria bed nets laced with insecticide could be at combating lymphatic filariasis - whose most horrifying symptom, elephantiasis, is the massive swelling of skin and tissue.

"Filariasis is only picked up by mosquitoes late in the evening, so this is the time when people are more likely to be protected by their bed nets. So we found that bed net use actually is a greater barrier against filariasis transmission whereas malaria transmission may still be occurring outside the times when the user is under the net," said Reimer.

Reimer is the lead author on a paper about the findings, being published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The team involved researchers from institutes in Papua New Guinea, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.

Reimer says mass annual administration of drugs to residents of five villages in Papua New Guinea nearly eliminated the parasite from humans but did not stop its transmission by mosquitoes.

"If we can reduce mosquito-biting rates then we're able to increase the thresholds below which the disease prevalence will move to zero. So by controlling mosquitoes we're making the targets for the mass drug administration more obtainable," she said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has a goal of eliminating lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem by the year 2020.

The treated nets block female mosquitoes from securing blood, which is essential for them to produce offspring. The insecticide also cuts in half the insect's life span, preventing the parasite from being transmitted.

The WHO estimates that 120 million people suffer from lymphatic filariasis. About one-third of those have been disfigured or debilitated by the disease. Infection is usually acquired in childhood but the profound visible manifestations become evident later in life.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

36 people are confirmed dead, but some 270 remain trapped on board More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid