Dracunculiasis (guinea worm disease): eradication without a drug or a vaccine

Gautam Biswas, Dieudonne P. Sankara, Junerlyn Agua-Agum, Alhousseini Maiga


Dracunculiasis, commonly known as guinea worm disease, is a nematode infection transmitted to humans exclusively via contaminated drinking water. The disease prevails in the most deprived areas of the world. No vaccine or medicine is available against the disease: eradication is being achieved by implementing preventive measures. These include behavioural change in patients and communities—such as self-reporting suspected cases to health workers or volunteers, filtering drinking water and accessing water from improved sources and preventing infected individuals from wading or swimming in drinking-water sources—supplemented by active surveillance and case containment, vector control and provision of improved water sources. Efforts to eradicate dracunculiasis began in the early 1980s. By the end of 2012, the disease had reached its lowest levels ever. This paper reviews the progress made in eradicating dracunculiasis since the eradication campaign began, the factors influencing progress and the difficulties in controlling the pathogen that requires behavioural change, especially when the threat becomes rare. The challenges of intensifying surveillance are discussed, particularly in insecure areas containing the last foci of the disease. It also summarizes the broader benefits uniquely linked to interventions against dracunculiasis.

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