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Upscaling Novel Bio-rational Products for Controlling Tungiasis in eastern Africa

Upscaling Novel Bio-rational Products for Controlling Tungiasis in eastern Africa

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The big idea

The project proposes to develop an affordable product that can clear jigger infection in a single topical application without adverse effects on the user.   Infestation by adult female sand flea or jiggers leads to Tungiasis disease. The World Health Organisation conservative estimates indicate that over one billion people in tropical and subtropical regions of the Caribbean, South America and sub-Saharan Africa live in areas infested by the sand flea. The jigger larvae and pupae develop in dry shaded soils, mostly inside the sleeping rooms of houses with an unsealed earthen floor where most transmission occurs. The embedded flea causes inflammation, pain, and itching, leading to difficulty in walking, sleeping, and concentrating on school or work. It disproportionately affects low-income people in under-served areas with little or no access to health care. Affected people include children of school going age (5-14 years), women, youth, elderly, and those living with disability. A recent survey in Kenya showed a 1.35% prevalence in school children and that male children who attended public schools and were from lower socioeconomic backgrounds bore the brunt of the diseases (Elson et al 2023). It is generally more prevalent in western, Nyanza, central and coast regions of Kenya. In Kakamega County, it threatens closure of some schools. In Uganda, Karamoja, Busoga, Ankole and west Nile regions are seriously affected.  In Tanzania, at least 42.5% jigger infestation has been reported in western region. Novel technologies that could accelerate the elimination and eradication of tungiasis by treating those infected and reducing the source of infection are urgently required.

Why it matters

There is currently no affordable, effective, safe, and painless standard treatment for tungiasis. Current treatment options recommend use of Lysol solution for mild tungiasis cases hydrogen peroxide or potassium permanganate for severe cases. These are harsh solutions that subject the affected people to a lot of pain when in contact with the open wounds, besides being less efficacious. Other promising remedies against the flea like coconut oil-based lotion for prevention and dimeticones for treatment of tungiasis appear to be expensive and commercially unavailable. Hence, affected people are stigmatised and have infection associated with deformities that reduces their capacity to engage in economic and income generating activities.  The disease triggers microbial secondary infections and increases risk to tetanus, HIV and Hepatitis B virus infections through jigger inflicted wounds.

A new solution

The project will introduce a safe, affordable, effective, and easy-to-use product for clearing jigger infections and preventing the spread of such infections. The product will be a topical application that cures infections with a single topical application without inflicting pain on the user. The product is made from natural sources and identified plants that naturally cure jigger infections. It is carefully formulated with additives to speed up the healing of wounds and secondary infections that result from jigger infections and to limit the amount of pain associated with conventional and frontline products and methods for managing jigger infections.


Communities participating in the project will be sensitized about the risks and treatment for tungiasis. If successful, the product will be registered as a treatment product in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, and will be readily availed to affected persons in Eastern Africa. This will bring improve the quality of life of communities affected by jiggers in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Environmental sustainability

The technologies being proposed are bio-rational and will not lead to significant    degradation of the environment. These could potentially provide an alternative to the synthetic chemicals currently used in the treatment of tungiasis and control of the jigger   flea thus reducing carbon emissions and preserving the biodiversity.

Project Partners


Project Leader

Prof Maurice  Omolo – Masinde Muliro University of Science & Technology (MMUST)