Carter Center: Guinea worm could make a comeback in Mali

One of the "Stories You Missed" we highlighted for 2012 was that the world is on the verge of eliminating Guinea worm -- a painful parasite that was once prevalent throughout Africa and southern Asia -- but has been reduced to just a few hundred cases in four African countries.

But former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, whose center has been at the forefront of efforts to eradicate the disease since the 1980s, warns that the violence in Mali may be complicating the final push to eliminate the disease:

In rebel-held areas of northern Mali, teams that remove worms and teach villagers how to protect their drinking water have been unable to operate since April, Ernesto Ruiz-Tiben, head of Guinea worm eradication for the Carter Center, said during a video news conference with Mr. Carter.

Mali had only seven of the world’s 542 confirmed cases in 2012, but three of them were detected in Niger among refugees from Mali, which suggests that the disease is spreading.

“We have no good sense of what the real case count is,” Dr. Ruiz-Tiben said. In 2006, he said, one infected student walked 250 miles north to the northern Kidal region of Mali and started an outbreak that spread worms to at least 400 others.

Polio, the other disease that along with Guinea worm is closest to eradication, has also received an unfortunate assist from political violence.

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