Control or elimination of the 20 NTDs WHO are a litmus test for the UN’s SDGs, indicating in particular whether the countries that signed the SDG agenda 2030 are serious about safeguarding access to essential health care. In order to align their control efforts with the SDG agenda, the WHO at their 73rd WHA (World Health Assembly) meeting has last week adopted a new roadmap for NTD control and elimination.
Two major NTDs are onchocerciasis and lymphatic filariasis. Current control and elimination efforts comprise the use of several drugs (ivermectin, albendazole and diethylcarbamazine), using mass drug administration (MDA) in endemic areas. However, these drugs primarily kill worm larvae which are taken up by transmitting insects, but not the long-lived (10-15 years) adult worms which continue to reproduce after drug exposure. Therefore, in the new roadmap, WHO has expressed the need for new drugs that kill the adult worms (adulticidal drugs).
In my talk, I will give an overview over the principle of using filarial Wolbachia endosymbionts as targets for novel chemotherapies that are adulticidal (macrofilaricidal) and describe the work of international consortia, funded by the Bill Gates Foundation and others such as DNDi where the institute is a partner, on their way to deliver new macrofilaricidal drugs for human use over the next years.