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Lymphatic filariasis: contagion, symptoms and treatment

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

Known as elephantiasis, lymphatic filariasis is an infectious tropical disease caused by the transmission of parasites that occur through mosquitoes or flies’ bites. The infection is usually contracted in childhood and causes damage to the lymphatic system.

Symptoms of the disease vary depending on whether it adopts asymptomatic, acute, or chronic forms. However, in all of them, there is usually damage to the lymphatic system, kidneys, and alterations in the immune system. Some of the symptoms of the disease cause permanent damage leading to disabilities.

This disease was considered a public health problem, so the WHO initiated a program to combat it, especially in endemic countries where the infection is more prevalent. This program has the objective of applying a large-scale treatment to stop the disease and implementing measures to improve the condition of people suffering from the infection. If you want to know more about this disease, at FastlyHealwe explain the symptoms, treatments, and how lymphatic filariasis is spread.

Causes: How is lymphatic filariasis spread?

The spread of lymphatic filariasis is caused by mosquito bites. However, these must first become infected with microfilariae by ingesting blood from someone already infected. The actual causes of the infection are three types of worms, of which we can differentiate three types:

  • Wuchereria bancrofti. In most cases, it is the cause of the disease, specifically in 90%.
  • Brugia malayi. It is less frequent, but it is also responsible for some cases.
  • Brugia timori. Together with the previous one, it forms the remaining 10% of the cases.

These worms are acquired by mosquitoes and later spread to uninfected people when they ingest blood. Once the worms have entered the bloodstream, they lodge in the lymphatic system, altering the immune system. But in addition, a mosquito infected with these worms will also transmit their larvae, which adhere to the skin and enter the body once they are born.

The mosquitoes that can transmit the disease are of different types:

  • Culex. More common in urban or semi-urban areas.
  • Anopheles. More common in rural areas.
  • Aedes. It has a significant presence in the endemic islands of the Pacific.

Symptoms of lymphatic filariasis

Symptoms of lymphatic filariasis vary depending on whether the disease is asymptomatic, acute, or chronic. In most cases, the infection is asymptomatic and does not present symptoms of the chronic stage. However, there is damage to the lymphatic system and kidneys, as well as alterations in the immune system.

When the disease is in its chronic state, it is known as elephantiasis. It usually presents symptoms of acute episodes such as inflammation of the skin, lymph nodes, and lymphatic vessels. These symptoms are a consequence of the body’s response to the parasite. However, in most cases, the symptoms respond to bacterial skin infections since the immune system, and its defenses have been altered. It is also possible that when lymphatic filariasis is chronic, the person experiences a thickening of the skin on the limbs and an accumulation of fluid, especially in the breasts and genital organs. As a consequence, the person can suffer deformities and disabilities.

Lymphatic filariasis treatment

According to the WHO, more than 1.1 billion people are at risk from lymphatic filariasis in need of treatment. This treatment is called preventive chemotherapy. In this way, the spread of the infection is stopped.

Therefore, the objective is to stop the advance of infection with a large-scale treatment in endemic areas, as well as the implementation of programs where activities are carried out that improve the state of people suffering from the disease.

Large-scale treatment

Large-scale treatment consists of administering a single annual dose of two drugs to at-risk populations. These medications do not completely cure the disease, but they do reduce the number of microfilaria in the bloodstream and prevent the spread of mosquito parasites.

Improve the quality of life of patients

The symptoms of lingual filariasis can be managed to alleviate the damage caused by the disease. In this way, some surgical methods can be a tremendous improvement for patients.

On the other hand, people with lymphoedema require continuous assistance to cope with the disease and prevent it from reaching more advanced stages.

Traveler precautions

In the case of visiting endemic areas for long periods, the risk of contracting the disease increases. Therefore, it is necessary to take a series of precautions to avoid mosquito bites:

  • Wear light-colored garments and avoid dark or garish shades.
  • Use electrical repellants if you have plugs in the room.
  • Sleep in places where the windows are equipped with metal screens to prevent mosquitoes from entering the interior.
  • Buy powerful mosquito repellants at any pharmacy.

These are the tropical and subtropical regions where lymphatic filariasis is most present:

  • Africa: Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Tanzania.
  • Central and South America.
  • South Asia: Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Myanmar, and Nepal.
  • Pacific Islands: Polynesia, Melanosis and Micronesia.

This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Lymphatic filariasis: contagion, symptoms and treatment , we recommend that you enter our Immune System category .

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