UK Government pledges new support to LSTM to protect 100 million people

Press release 21 Jan 2012
Queuing in the sun

The UK Government pledges new support to LSTM to protect 100 million people from elephantiasis and help eliminate the disease by 2020.

Liverpool, 21 January 2012 – The Centre for Neglected Tropical Diseases (CNTD) at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) has received a major boost from the UK Department for International Development (DFID) in its drive to eliminate elephantiasis globally. The new commitment of £22 million over the next four years will provide 400 million treatments to protect 100 million people in Africa and Asia from this painful and disfiguring disease.

A leading organisation in combating neglected tropical diseases around the world, CNTD is currently supporting 12 countries to eliminate elephantiasis by 2020. With support from DFID and GlaxoSmithKline, it has been providing treatment to millions of people since 2000.

"Those of us who are dedicated to controlling neglected tropical diseases applaud this generous support from the UK government. It builds on the extraordinary commitment of the pharmaceutical industry to supply drugs for as long as needed to treat and prevent these diseases and recognises the outstanding work of all those involved who have made the elimination of the most prevalent disease of the poor their priority. The UK government support will literally change the lives of many millions of the poorest,” said Professor Moses Bockarie, Director of CNTD.

Elephantiasis (the common name for lymphatic filariasis) is a painful and disfiguring tropical disease with over one billion people at risk.  It is controllable by a simple, effective parasite-killing treatment via annual mass drug administration in areas where the disease is endemic. Pharmaceutical companies GlaxoSmithKline, Merck & Co. Inc. and Esai donate all the drugs necessary for controlling elephantiasis.  Mass drug administration is considered a ‘best buy’ by the international health community in terms of its value for money in tackling disease.

“Building on Liverpool's global excellence in this field, Britain is helping to lead the way with other partners in providing critical treatments to millions of men, women and children whose lives are blighted by these horrific diseases,” said Minister for International Development Stephen O’Brien. "We have the tools at hand to eliminate or control these preventable diseases. Helping people trapped in poverty by ill health is one of the best investments we can make. Their lives will be transformed, they can go to school, they can work, and eventually pull themselves out of poverty.”

According to Professor Bockarie, neglected tropical diseases affect over one billion of the world’s poorest people, threaten the lives and health of many millions more and cause significant levels of disability, stigma and exclusion. If elephantiasis is left untreated, the parasites, transmitted by mosquitoes, nest in the human lymphatic system.  This causes painful and disfiguring symptoms such as swelling of the lymph nodes, limbs and genitals, and often leading to kidney damage.  Usually contracted by children, the mental, physical and social effects are felt throughout adult life.

“This is the decade in which we have the potential to eliminate some of the world’s most disabling and debilitating diseases. We are incredibly proud that the British government has taken such a leadership role and doubly proud to be part of the history in the making,” said LSTM Director, Professor Janet Hemingway, “We and our partners around the world are poised to help end the cycle of poverty and suffering caused by these diseases.”

In partnership with Imperial College, LSTM will also receive additional funding from DFID over the next four years to provide treatments to protect 40 million people from schistosomiasis in at least eight African countries. Caught through contact with contaminated fresh water that contains parasites, schistosomiasis or more commonly known as bilharzia leads to chronic ill health, damages internal organs, impairs the growth of children and causes more than 200,000 deaths a year in Africa.

"We at WHO are delighted to hear the news of the greatly increased commitment of DFID to neglected tropical disease interventions. This makes a step change in the resources available to complement drug donations,” said Dr Lorenzo Savioli, Director of the Control of Neglected Tropical Disease Department of the World Health Organisation. “WHO looks forward to expanding our long standing collaboration with CNTD in Liverpool which has to date been so productive in making real progress towards the elimination of elephantiasis."

The pledge of new funding from DFID marks a five-fold increase in Britain’s support as part of an international effort to help rid the world of neglected tropical diseases.

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About CNTD

About the Centre for Neglected Tropical Diseases (CNTD)

The Centre for Neglected Tropical Diseases is the leading coordination centre for the global lymphatic filariasis elimination campaign.  Working in some of the poorest countries in the world, the centre helps countries to develop and implement mass drug administration for lymphatic filariasis, schistosomiasis, and soil transmitted helminths as well as carrying out operational research. The centre is based at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, and collaborates with institutions and governments across the globe, in addition to providing the secretariat for the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis (GAELF).

About the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM)

The Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine is a world leading institution developing new treatments for malaria, TB, HIV and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).  Founded in 1898, it was the first institution in the world dedicated to research and teaching in tropical medicine. LSTM has an extensive programme of research in NTDs ranging from molecular studies to clinical trials and multi-national scale-up programmes. LSTM’s research focuses on the most debilitating NTDs such as sleeping sickness, river blindness, elephantiasis and worms infestations. Research on these diseases, and complementary cross-disease research on insect vectors and capacity development, is led by a team of seven internationally-renowned professors and involves partners in over 30 countries. LSTM now has a research portfolio in excess of £190 million and an internationally recognised teaching programme attracting students from over 50 countries. 

For further information please contact

Russ Glennon
Centre Manager, CNTD.
tel: 0151 705 3239
mobile: 07799 34 11 81