In 1986 a Guinea worm epidemic swept across 21 countries from Asia to sub-Saharan Africa. The disease was reported in as many as 3.5 million people.
The agency now reports that Guinea worm is about to become only the second human disease ever to be eradicated, after smallpox.
Removing Guinea Worm was no small task. Thousands of volunteers were called in, water filters were distributed, and education efforts were undertaken in 23,700 communities where a threat from the disease was persistent.
What might be most amazing about those efforts, is that they were undertaken without new technology or vacccines.
The Carter Center was established by former US President Jimmy Carter in 1982, the year after he left office.
While the center works on a range of human rights and humanitarian issues, one of its main focuses is on neglected tropical diseases.
While not lethal, Guinea worm is one of these neglected diseases in the world and is incredibly debilitating.
Guinea Worm occurs when someone drinks infected water and the larvae hatch inside the body and then begin to grow in the abdomen.
The worms then mate and while the male subsequently dies, the female matures.
Approximately one year later the female worms migrate down the limbs and create unbearably painful lesions on the legs and feet as they slowly emerge from the body.
Guinea Worms can grow up to 3.3 feet in length and can take several months to fully evacuate the body. All the while, causing a strong burning sensation at the wound. In under developed countries, one of the only means of some relief is constantly bathing the emerging worm in water.
At that point the female larvae into the water source, completing the parasites’ cycle.
The Guinea Worm is dependent on a human host and removing them for a number of years should fully eradicate them.
In the meantime, the Carter Center is currently working on eight diseases they believe can soon be eradicated. The groups most promising is river blindness.