Politicians and parasites are sometimes mentioned in the same sentence — but usually not in a literal or positive sense.

However, an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tells how amazingly close one politician’s efforts have come to eliminating the dreadful parasite-borne Guinea worm disease.

According to the article, Baptist layman and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and others working with the Carter Center report that they have nearly eradicated this disease that affected 3.5 million people just 22 years ago.

Grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and others are being used to wipe out the remaining impact — estimated at fewer than 5,000 cases of Guinea worm disease left in six African countries.

The news report stated that the eradication of Guinea worm would make it the second known disease to be eliminated from humans — with the other being smallpox. Filtering water is the means by which the disease is countered since the Guinea worm larvae enters the body through infected water sources.

Yesterday, President Carter praised the local villagers who have carried out this important educational health program. However, the former president, his colleagues at the Carter Center, donors and worldwide partners also deserve our affirmation for this remarkable example of compassion and care.

The Carter Center is now giving attention to creating a new program in Ethiopia to fight another parasitic disease called lymphatic filariasis — that causes severe swelling and is better known as elephantiasis.

[IMAGE ABOVE: The Carter Center web site is counting down the remaining cases of Guinea worm disease — showing the current number at 4,410.)

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