Filariasis (elephantiasis): Symptoms, precautions, causes, diagnose and treatment:

In this article you will learn about Filariasis its symptoms, preventions, causes, diagnosis and treatment.

Overview of Filariasis :

Filariasis is caused by several round, coiled and thread-like parasitic worms that belongs to the family filaridea. These parasites penetrate the skin either their own or through the opening created by mosquito bites to reach the lymphatic system.
The disease is caused by the nematode worm, either Wuchereria bancrofti or Brugia malayi . This is transmitted by mosquito species Culex quinquefasciatus and Mansonia annulifera/M.uniformis respectively.

The disease generally presents with the symptoms like swelling of legs, and hydrocele and can cause a raft of societal stigma. Lymphatic Filariasis (LF) is commonly known as elephantiasis. It is a disfiguring and disabling disease, which is generally acquired in childhood. In the early stages, though there are either no symptoms or non-specific symptoms, the lymphatic system is damaged. This stage can last for several years. Infected persons sustain the transmission of the disease. The long term physical consequences are painful swollen limbs (lymphoedema or elephantiasis). Hydrocele in males is also common in endemic areas.

Some basic Information :

Filariasis Pathogen : Filarial worm (Wuchereria bancrofti)
Mode of transmission of Filariasis : Bites of mosquitoes – Aedes and Culex.

Symptoms :

  1. Fever
  2. Collection of endothellial cells and metabolites in the wall of lymph vessels.
  3. Swelling takes place in certain parts of the body like legs, breasts, scrotum, etc.
  4. Swelling of legs which appear as legs of elephant, so this disease is also called elephantiasis

Prevention and cure :

  1. Mesh doors and windows in the house to check the entry of mosquitoes.
  2. The water collected in tanks or other articles should be properly covered.
  3. Sprinkling of kerosene in ditches, etc.
  4. Drugs may be administered.

Causes :

Most cases of filariasis are caused by the parasite known as Wuchereria bancrofti. Culex, Aedes and Anopheles mosquitoes serve as vector for W.bancrofti in transmission of the disease. Another parasite called Brugia malayi also causes filariasis is transmitted by the vector Mansonia and Anopheles mosquitoes. When an infected mosquito bites a healthy person, the larvae called microfilariae move into the lymphatics and lymph nodes. Here, they develop into adult worms and may persist for years.

The adult parasite, in turn, produces more microfilariae. These microfilariae circulate in the peripheral blood usually in the night, and are sucked by the mosquitoes during a bite. The same cycle is then repeated in another healthy individual.

Risk factors of lymphatic filariasis:

A number of factors increase the risk of developing lymphatic filariasis. Not all people with risk factors will get lymphatic filariasis. Risk factors for lymphatic filariasis include:
· Residence in tropical or subtropical areas where the disease is endemic
· Travel in affected regions, although short-term travelers are at lower risk

Diagnosis :

The diagnosis of filariasis requires examination of a blood smear for the presence of the larval round worm W. bancrofti or B. malayi. Since the number of parasites (parasitemia) in the blood is higher during the night, blood samples are best obtained at night. When parasites are not found in the blood, the adult worms may occasionally be found in a lymph node sample from an infected individual.
A somewhat easier diagnostic test was recently developed that may be used at any time during the day. It is based on detecting the presence of antibodies generated in reaction to the foreign bodies, the parasites themselves.

How is lymphatic filariasis treated?

Treatment for lymphatic filariasis depends on whether the infection is active or has progressed to complications.

1.Treatment for active infections

Diethylcarbamazine (DEC) is the drug of choice for treating lymphatic filariasis. This drug effectively kills the microfilariae.
2.Treatment for complications
Complications of lymphatic filariasis, such as lymphedema and elephantiasis, cannot be treated with DEC. The drug only kills active microfilariae.
Patients with lymphedema should be referred to a therapist, who can prescribe exercise, as well as maintenance and hygiene measures to prevent further infection. Hydrocele (swelling of the scrotum) may be treated with surgery to relieve the swelling.

What are the potential complications of lymphatic filariasis?

Although many cases of lymphatic filariasis do not produce symptoms, getting prompt treatment is essential to avoid complications. You can help minimize your risk of serious complications by following the treatment plan you and your health care professional design specifically for you. Left untreated, filarial infection can progress to complications including:

  1.  Adverse effects of treatment
  2.  Elephantiasis
  3.  Hypersensitivity reaction to developing larvae
  4.  Kidney damage
  5.  Swelling of the limbs
  6.  Swelling of the genitals


So I hope by reading this article you have learnt about Filariasis, it’s symptoms, preventions, causes diagnose and treatment.

Author: Hi there, my name is Subin Joshua, and I am a Medical student. I grew up in a family of teachers and know that being a social worker is my calling. My passion for helping others has been evident in my involvement in helping the poor and needy for the last three years. Through those experiences, I have learned to interact with a diverse group of people, which has increased my ability to relate to others.

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