Ghana has been implementing mass drug administration (MDA) of ivermectin and albendazole for the elimination of lymphatic filariasis (LF) since the year 2000, as part of the Global Programme to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis (GPELF). It was estimated that 5⁻6 years of treatment would be sufficient to eliminate the disease. Tremendous progress has been made over the years, and treatment has stopped in many disease endemic districts. However, despite the successful implementation of MDA, there are districts with persistent transmission. In this study we assessed the epidemiology of LF in three adjoining districts that have received at least 16 years of MDA. The assessments were undertaken one year after the last MDA. 1234 adults and 182 children below the age of 10 years were assessed. The overall prevalence of circulating filarial antigen in the study participants was 8.3% (95% CI: 6.9⁻9.9), with an estimated microfilaria prevalence of 1.2%. The microfilarial intensity in positive individuals ranged from 1 to 57 microfilariae/mL of blood. Higher antigen prevalence was detected in males (13.0%; 95% CI: 10.3⁻16.2) compared to females (5.5%; 95% CI: 4.1⁻7.2). The presence of infection was also highest in individuals involved in outdoor commercial activities, with the risks of infection being four- to five-fold higher among farmers, fishermen, drivers and artisans, compared to all other occupations. Using bednets or participating in MDA did not significantly influence the risk of infection. No children below the age of 10 years were found with infection. Detection of Wb123 antibodies for current infections indicated a prevalence of 14.4% (95% CI: 8.1⁻23.0) in antigen-positive individuals above 10 years of age. No antibodies were detected in children 10 years or below. Assessment of infection within the An. gambiae vectors of LF indicated an infection rate of 0.9% (95% CI: 0.3⁻2.1) and infectivity rate of 0.5% (95% CI: 0.1⁻1.6). These results indicate low-level transmission within the districts, and suggest that it will require targeted interventions in order to eliminate the infection.
Keywords: Ghana; Wuchereria bancrofti; control; elephantiasis; lymphatic filariasis; transmission.