-As WHO Set to Tackle Prevalence in Affected Countries
The World Health Organisation (WHO) is set to commence the distribution of a paediatric chewable formulation of mebendazole to countries with high prevalence of helminths infection, known as intestinal worms infection.
The world’s apex health institution recently revealed that “more than 1.5 billion people, or 24% of the world’s population, are infected with soil-transmitted helminths worldwide. Infections are widely distributed in tropical and subtropical areas, with the greatest numbers occurring in sub-Saharan Africa, the Americas, China and East Asia”.
The WHO through a release noted that over 267 million preschool-age children live in areas where these parasitic worms are intensively transmitted and periodic treatment is required to prevent associated morbidity.
The statement further explained that the current practice of preventive treatment in endemic areas for the three main worm species, is in tandem with the 2017 updated published evidence-based guideline of WHO on regular large-scale treatment of population groups at risk of soil-transmitted helminth infections.
Mebendazole is one of the medicines recommended by WHO to treat intestinal worm infections of humans. This formulation was approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration in 2016 and is now donated to WHO by the pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson.
The document reads in part : “Now, young children aged 1 year or older children who have difficulty swallowing solid tablets will be able to easily ingest the tablet, which has a pleasant taste and can either be chewed or turned into a soft mass with a little water,” said Dr Antonio Montresor, who heads WHO’s programme on soil-transmitted helminthiasis.
“Initially, the quantity of this paediatric formulation will be limited, with full roll-out planned as production capability increases. Paediatric mebendazole will fill a major gap in the treatment of intestinal worms.
“The new formulation was developed in response to WHO’s call for a more child-friendly version. It overcomes a major difficulty in administering the medicine to children,” said Cori Vail, Director of Programme Strategy for Soil Transmitted Helminths at Johnson & Johnson.
Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson has recognised that preschool children are an important group at risk for intestinal worms, and have decided to include the new formulation in their current donation programme through WHO, with plans to gradually increase production.
In line with Johnson & Johnson’s magnanimity to make the medicine available to affected countries, the WHO has sent invites to countries that are facing difficulties in procuring deworming (anthelminthic) medicines and are planning to conduct large-scale treatment campaigns for preschool children in 2019 to submit their requests for paediatric mebendazole to the WHO Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases before 31 August 2018.