Impact survey of Guyana’s filaria transmission status to commence in February
The Health Ministry will be conducting an IDA (Ivermectin, Diethylcarbamazine and Albendazole) impact survey from February, to confirm the infection status of Lymphatic filariasis in Guyana and if it has been reduced to a level where transmission is no longer possible.
This survey will last until April 2023. It follows two consecutive rounds of mass drug administration for filaria in 2019 and 2021, respectively, using the triple drug therapy IDA.
Persons eligible to participate are adults aged 20, and persons who have agreed to participate. They can assist by volunteering to be part of the survey, signing a consent letter and giving a finger prick sample to access their current filaria status.
If a person decides to participate, they will be asked questions such as age, nationality, and filaria mass drug administration participation after giving their consent. Thereafter, a prick will be given on the lesser-used hand and a small amount of blood will be taken. This result will be ready within three days.
Individuals diagnosed with filaria will be given free treatment to get rid of the infection. Treatment will include Albendazole, DEC, and Ivermectin – tablets that kill young worms and sterilise adult worms. The results of the test will only be known to the individual and the principal investigator of the study. Samples will be processed using barcodes and stored in an encrypted electronic file.
Throughout the country, consecutive rounds of Ivermectin, Diethylcarbamazine and Albendazole (IDA) were used in the triple-drug combination. It is recommended by the World Health Organisation to roll out a mass administration of medicines in countries seeking to eliminate filariasis completely.
For the campaign, training was done for 1400 pill distributors, 170 field officers, 20 regional coordinators, and eight national supervisors spanning 138 health facilities across the country. For those persons who have already contracted filaria, the Ministry was working on a treatment to prevent them from developing a disability.
Before the end of the exercise, over 360,000 persons had taken the pills across the country. For Guyana to achieve a filaria elimination certificate, the aim was to achieve 70 per cent coverage.
The disease is caused by three species of thread-like nematode worms, known as filariae – Wuchereria bancrofti, Brugia malayi and Brugia timori. Male worms range from three to four centimetres in length, and female worms are eight to 10 centimetres.
The worms target the lymphatic system, which is an essential component of the body’s immune system as it is essentially a network of nodes and vessels that maintain the delicate fluid balance between blood and body tissues. But when someone is infected, the male and female worms form “nests” together in this vital system.
The World Health Organisation data shows that some 900 million people in 49 different countries are at risk of contracting filaria. In Guyana, 90 per cent of the population was also at risk for contracting the disease. While diethylcarbamazine (DEC)-medicated salt was the first move used by Government to eliminate filariasis, the pills were recommended for its advantage and later implemented by the Ministry.