Mapping elephantiasis (lymphoedema) in Ethiopia
Mapping of the two main causes of tropical lymphoedema nears completion in Ethiopia
The two main causes of elephantiasis, or lymphoedema, in the tropics are lymphatic filariasis and podoconiosis.
Podoconiosis is a form of elephantiasis arising in barefoot subsistence farmers who are in long-term contact with irritant red clay soil of volcanic origins.
Lymphatic filariasis and podoconiosis are two of the eight neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) prioritized within the recently-launched Ethiopian NTD Master Plan (2013–2015).
Integrated mapping of lymphatic filariasis and podoconiosis in Ethiopia has been completed thanks to collaboration among the Ethiopian Health and Nutrition Research Institute (EHNRI), the Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS), the Centre for Neglected Tropical Diseases (LSTM) and the Global Atlas of Helminth Infections (GAHI) at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (Global Atlas of Helminth Infections | An open-access information resource on the distribution of soil-transmitted helminths, schistosomiasis and lymphatic filariasis), supported by the Wellcome Trust, the UK Department for International Development and the End Fund. Integrated mapping has been crucial because both diseases share similar clinical features, occur in the same target age group (individuals aged >15 years) and diagnosis of one requires exclusion of the other.
A total of 34 teams have covered 1304 communities across Ethiopia since mid-June 2013, using smartphones to reduce costs and time and to minimize error. Data collectors have encountered security challenges and landslides while completing the mapping. Ultimately, this will help target resources, monitor progress in control, and advocate for investment in prevention, control and elimination of both diseases.