We are delighted to announce that Dr. Mauricio Sauerbrey is the recipient of the 2012 Merck Mectizan Award. Dr. Sauerbrey was selected for his outstanding dedication to the elimination of onchocerciasis from the Americas. Since joining The Carter Center’s Onchocerciasis Program for the Americas in 1997, the six onchocerciasis (river blindness) endemic countries have all consistently achieved 85% or higher therapeutic coverage, leading to the successful interruption of transmission in Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Mexico. Treatment with Mectizan has been stopped in all four countries. Colombia was the first country to stop treatment and complete the three-year post-treatment surveillance (PTS) phase. A dossier requesting certification of onchocerciasis elimination has been submitted to WHO. and a three year post treatment surveillance period is underway. PTS is ongoing in
Prior to joining OEPA, Dr. Sauerbrey played a key role in the control of malaria in El Salvador. His innovative decentralized approach to reducing malaria in El Salvador despite difficult political circumstances is highly admirable. The strategies he helped develop for malaria control have been a valuable asset to the effort to eliminate onchocerciasis from the Americas.
Dr. Sauerbrey has been a strong advocate for the elimination of onchocerciasis from the Americas. During his tenure with the Carter Center’s Onchocerciasis Elimination Program for the Americas, twice-yearly and in some cases quarterly treatment coverage rates have increased dramatically.
Onchocerciasis is not a fatal disease, nor does it cause significant morbidity in the Americas, making it a low priority for ministries of health. But through Dr. Sauerbrey’s leadership and diplomacy, all six countries in the Americas have diligently worked to eliminate the disease. Colombia will be the first country worldwide to achieve certification of elimination, and Ecuador is close behind. It is very encouraging that Guatemala and Mexico have both stopped treatment and have entered the post-treatment surveillance phase. With only two small foci remaining in Brazil and Venezuela, the goal has nearly been achieved and we have no doubt the elimination target will be reached by 2015.
We congratulate you for these accomplishments and your many other important endeavors reflecting your outstanding commitment to the fight against onchocerciasis.