Clinical Trials to Begin of Antibiotic Treatment for Elephantiasis

The Task Force is facilitating clinical trials for a promising new treatment to combat a disfiguring disease known as elephantiasis, which can result from infection with a neglected tropical disease (NTD) called lymphatic filariasis.

Millions of people around the world suffer from elephantiasis. The disfiguring swelling caused by the disease prevents people from being able to work and isolates them from their communities. In its advanced stages, the disease also incapacitates people and can cause infections accompanied by attacks of high fever and swelling called lymphedema.

An experimental treatment using an antibiotic called doxycycline has shown promise, when used with a regimen of regular leg hygiene, for alleviating these acute attacks and even reducing lymphedema.

The Task Force’s Neglected Tropical Diseases Support Center (NTD-SC), with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development, is facilitating further clinical trials of doxycycline in individuals with elephantiasis. Trials will begin this spring in Mali and be expanded to additional countries by 2018 to test the safety and efficacy of six-weeks of doxycycline treatment in halting the progression of lymphedema and reducing the frequency of acute attacks. These studies will be conducted in collaboration with the International Center of Excellence in Research and the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Trials in additional country sites are expected to begin by 2018.

“Ultimately, the goal of this trial is to improve the quality of life among people affected by lymphedema from elephantiasis,” said Eric Ottesen, MD, director of NTD-SC. “This research complements the work programs and partners are doing all over the world to ease the suffering that results from this disfiguring disease.”

The clinical trial of doxycycline is part of NTD-SC’s operational research portfolio that focuses on addressing key scientific questions associated with the control and elimination of NTDs including lymphatic filariasis.

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