The number of worldwide dracunculiasis cases has greatly declined during the past few years, according to recent findings in MMWR.
Also known as Guinea worm disease, dracunculiasis is caused by the parasitic worm, Dracunculus medinensis. As the worm emerges through a person’s skin about 1 year after infection, it results in pain and secondary bacterial infection that can cause temporary or permanent disability.
When the World Health Assembly called for its eradication in 1986, 3.5 million dracunculiasis cases were estimated annually in 20 African and Asian countries. This number has declined, with 542 cases identified in four countries in 2012 and 148 cases across five countries in 2013.
The trend is expected to continue; during the first 6 months this year a 71% reduction in incidence was recorded compared with the same period during 2013. In addition, of the countries where the disease originally was present, only South Sudan, Chad, Mali and Ethiopia remain considered endemic by WHO.
Despite these gains, insecurity in Mali and an unprecedented number of infected dogs in Chad were cited as new challenges that require additional attention.
Programs used to reduce infection numbers focus on preventing contamination because D. medinensis reaches new hosts through drinking water. Common interventions include water filtering, treating surface water with insecticide, the use of bore-hole or hand-dug wells, and anti-contamination education for people who immerse affected body parts into drinking water sources.
“Although the 1991 and 2004 World Health Assembly goals to eradicate dracunculiasis globally in 1995 and 2009, respectively, were not achieved, considerable progress toward eradication has been made since 1986 in reducing the annual number of reported cases,” the researchers wrote.
Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.