Appearing last night on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, former President Jimmy Carter discussed major advances against Guinea worm and other neglected diseases.

 

In 1986, when the Carter Center started this work, Guinea worm disease, a parasitic infection, was present in three countries in Asia and in 17 countries in Africa totaling 3.5 million cases. Last year, there were 542 reported cases of the disease, mostly in South Sudan. Carter said seven cases have been reported thus far in 2013.

Guinea worm disease is contracted when people drink water that contains Guinea worm larvae. The larvae grow inside the body and slowly emerge through painful lesions in the skin.

When asked to explain the success, he said, “No medicine will prevent. No medicine will cure it.” Rather, through prevention and education, they’ve been successful in promoting the use of filters to remove infective Guinea worm eggs before they enter the body.

“We had to go to every single village on earth that had the disease,” Carter explained. “So we feel that we have prevented about 80 million cases of Guinea worm since we first started.”

According to the Carter Center, “Guinea worm disease is poised to be the next human disease to be eradicated after smallpox. … It will be the first disease to be eradicated without the use of a vaccine or medical treatment.”