Lymphatic filariasis, also known as elephantiasis, is a human disease caused by parasitic worms known as filarial worms. Filariasis is considered endemic in 73 countries; 37 of these are in Africa Most cases of the disease have no symptoms. Some people, however, develop a syndrome called elephantiasis, which is marked by severe swelling in the arms, legs, breasts, or genitals.
The skin may become thicker as well, and the condition may become painful. The changes to the body may harm the affected person’s social and economic situation.
How the Lymphatic filariasis (Elephantiasis) starts:
The most spectacular symptom of lymphatic filariasis is elephantiasis, a stage 3 lymphedema with thickening of the skin and underlying tissues. This was the first mosquito-borne disease to be discovered. Elephantiasis results when the parasites lodge in the lymphatic system and cause blockages to the flow of lymph. Infections usually begin in childhood. The skin condition the disease causes is called “elephantiasis tropica” (also known as “elephantiasis arabum”).
The subcutaneous worms present with skin rashes, urticarial papules, and arthritis, as well as hyper- and hypopigmentation macules. Onchocerca volvulus manifests itself in the eyes, causing “river blindness” (onchocerciasis), one of the leading causes of blindness in the world.
The disease itself is a result of a complex interplay between several factors: the worm, the endosymbiotic Wolbachia bacteria within the worm, the host’s immune response, and the numerous opportunistic infections and disorders that arise. The adult worms only live in the human lymphatic system.
How to cure Lymphatic filariasis (Elephantiasis):
The standard method for diagnosing active infection is by finding the microfilariae via microscopic examination. This may be difficult, as in most parts of the world, microfilariae only circulate in the blood at night. For this reason, the blood has to be collected nocturnally. The blood sample is typically in the form of a thick smear and stained with Giemsa stain. Testing the blood serum for antibodies against the disease may also be used.
What World Health Organization says to prevent:
The World Health Organization recommends mass deworming—treating entire groups of people who are at risk with a single annual dose of two medicines, namely albendazole in combination with either ivermectin or diethylcarbamazine citrate. With consistent treatment, since the disease needs a human host, the reduction of microfilariae means the disease will not be transmitted, the adult worms will die out, and the cycle will be broken.
In 2015 about 38.5 million people were infected. About 950 million people are at risk of the disease in 54 countries. It is most common in tropical Africa and Asia. Lymphatic filariasis is classified as a neglected tropical diseases and one of the four main worm infections. The disease results in economic losses of many billions of dollars a year. WikiPedia
Disability-adjusted life year for lymphatic filariasis per 100,000 inhabitants : less than 10 , 10-50 , 50-70 , 70-80 , 80-90 , 90-100 , 100-150 , 150-200 , 200-300 , 300-400 , 400-500 more than 500
In sub-Saharan Africa, albendazole (donated by GlaxoSmithKline) is being used with ivermectin (donated by Merck & Co.) to treat the disease, whereas elsewhere in the world, albendazole is used with diethylcarbamazine. Transmission of the infection can be broken when a single dose of these combined oral medicines is consistently maintained annually for a duration of four to six years.
Treatment and the process
- Vaccine development
- Surgical treatment
Facts and Figures about Lymphatic filariasis (Elephantiasis)
- In the Americas, it is present in Brazil, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Guyana, Haiti, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.
- In Asia, it is present in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Timor-Leste, and Vietnam.
- In the Middle East, it is present only in Yemen.
- In the Pacific region, it is endemic in American Samoa, the Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Micronesia, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.
The worms are spread by the bites of infected mosquitoes. Three types of worms are known to cause the disease: Wuchereria bancrofti, Brugia malayi, and Brugia timori, with Wuchereria bancrofti being the most common. These worms damage the lymphatic system. The disease is diagnosed by microscopic examination of blood collected during the night. The blood is typically examined as a smear after being stained with Giemsa stain. Testing the blood for antibodies against the disease may also permit diagnosis. Other roundworms from the same family are responsible for river blindness.
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