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IAD sends plea to centre to adopt treatment protocol for elephantiasis

PTI Aug 04, 2018

The Kerala-based Institute of Applied Dermatology (IAD), which has developed a protocol to treat elephantiasis, has urged the Union government to adopt the procedure as a national model.

The institute is one of the leading lymphoeda and integrative medicine skin hospitals in the world and is recognised as a primary destination for treatment of lymphatic filariasis (lymphoedema) in the country and South-East Asia. It offers integrative treatment for vitiligo, psoriasis and lichen planus also and has so far successfully treated over 10,000 people since 1999, of whom 4,000 were filariasis patients. "Using modern medicine, ayurveda and yoga, the institute has been successfully treating patients using its protocol for treatment for elephantiasis," IAD chairman Dr S R Narahari, also a leading dermatologist, said. 

Elephantiasis is the world's largest disabling disease affecting 78 countries across the globe and WHO has classified it as a 'neglected disease of the poor', he said. Very little research has been done on this tropical disease and both biomedical pharmaceutical industry and governments have ignored it all these years, said. "It is high time the union government adopts this protocol as a national model for filariasis and propagates it through public-private partnership," he told PTI.

India, which accounts for one-third of the disease burden in the world, is one of the worst hit countries as many have been affected, he said. Out of the 30 million (three crore) filarial cases in Asia, there are 23 million (2.3 crore) in India-- that is about 80 per cent. While Bihar accounts for 17 per cent, Kerala (15.7 per cent), Uttar Pradesh (14.6 per cent) and Odisha are the most endemic. Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Kerala, Karnataka, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal comprise over 86 per cent of micro-filariae carriers and 97 per cent of the disease cases in the country, according to Narahari.

The integrative medicine approach has been the focal point of the institute and doctors have successfully combated neglected skin diseases which have had little or no cure till now, he said. The union government undertook field trials on filariasis in Alapuzha in Kerala and Gulbarga in Karnataka in 2011. A total of 730 patients (851 limbs) completed the three-and-a-half month follow-up.

There was a statistically significant (one per cent) reduction upto mid-thigh level volume measurement for both small and large limbs, he said. "Filarial fever episodes also reduced to 10.2 per cent in field conditions. This proved that self-care and integrative treatment was possible in resource-poor village settings. The results of the trials were published in the British Scientific Royal Society of Tropical Medicine," Narahari said.

The Kerala government had allocated Rs one crore for setting up a Centre for Integrated Medicine and Public Health (CIMPH) under the IAD in the 2014-15 budget and this is the first state government Centre on Integrated Medicine, thus recognising the efforts of the institute. Raj Kumar Gupta, an autorickshaw driver, had come to the institute from Mumbai after he ran from pillar to post for nearly 40 years to find a cure for his swollen limbs. He is able to lead a normal life today and does not have to face any stigma or discrimination.

Narahari is now working towards making this protocol a national policy to eliminate this disease in the country. Patients from Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Bihar have sought treatment at IAD and have been successfully treated. The institute is looking at expanding to other states in the country and working with the AYUSH Ministry.

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