Podoconiosis is one of the forgotten types of leg swelling (elephantiasis) in the tropics. Unlike the other, better-known types of leg swelling, podoconiosis is not caused by any parasite, virus or bacterium, but by an abnormal reaction to minerals found in the clay soils of some tropical highland areas. Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) have been responsible for the development of simple treatment methods without systematic evaluation of its effectiveness. It is essential that a large scale, fully controlled, pragmatic trial of the intervention is conducted. We aim to test the hypothesis that community-based treatment of podoconiosis lymphoedema reduces the frequency of acute dermatolymphangioadenitis episodes ('acute attacks') and improves other clinical, social and economic outcomes.
This is a pragmatic, individually randomised controlled trial. We plan to randomly allocate 680 podoconiosis patients from the East Gojjam Zone in northern Ethiopia to one of two groups: 'Standard Treatment' or 'Delayed Treatment'. Those randomised to standard treatment will receive the hygiene and foot-care intervention from May 2015 for one year, whereas those in the control arm will be followed through 2015 and be offered the intervention in 2016. The trial will be preceded by an economic context survey and a Rapid Ethical Assessment to identify optimal methods of conveying information about the trial and the approaches to obtaining informed consent preferred by the community. The primary outcome will be measured by recording patient recall and using a simple, patient-held diary that will be developed to record episodes of acute attacks. Adherence to treatment, clinical stage of disease, quality of life, disability and stigma will be considered secondary outcome measures. Other outcomes will include adverse events and economic productivity. Assessments will be made at baseline and at 3, 6, 9 and 12 months thereafter.
The evidence is highly likely to inform implementation of the new master plan for integrated control of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), in which podoconiosis is identified as one of eight NTDs prioritised for control. Potentially, an estimated 3 million patients in Ethiopia will therefore benefit from the results of this trial.
International Standard Randomised Controlled Trial Number.
ISRCTN67805210. Date of registration: 24 January 2013.
Does community-based treatment of podoconiosis lymphoedema reduce the frequency of attacks of acute dermatolymphangioadenitis?