What is Lymphatic Filariasis?

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What is Lymphatic Filariasis? Blog Image

Overview:

Union Health & Family Welfare Minister recently said India is committed to eradicating Lymphatic Filariasis by 2027, surpassing the global target by three years.

About Lymphatic Filariasis

 

  • Lymphatic filariasis, commonly known as elephantiasis, is a neglected tropical disease.
  • Infection occurs when filarial parasites are transmitted to humans through mosquitoes. This impairs the lymphatic system and can lead to the abnormal enlargement of body parts, causing pain, severe disability and social stigma. 
  • Cause:  It s caused by infection with parasites classified as nematodes (roundworms) of the family Filariodidea. There are 3 types of these thread-like filarial worms:
    • Wuchereria bancrofti, which is responsible for 90% of the cases.
    • Brugia malayi, which causes most of the remainder of the cases.
    • Brugia timori, which also causes the disease.
  • Adult worms nest in the lymphatic vessels and disrupt the normal function of the lymphatic system. The worms can live for approximately 6–8 years and, during their lifetime, produce millions of microfilariae (immature larvae) that circulate in the blood.
  • Transmission: Mosquitoes are infected with microfilariae by ingesting blood when biting an infected host. Microfilariae mature into infective larvae within the mosquito. When infected mosquitoes bite people, mature parasite larvae are deposited on the skin, from where they can enter the body. 
  • Symptoms: About two in every three people who have lymphatic filariasis don’t have severe symptoms. But filariasis usually leads to a weakened immune system. Some people may experience:
    • Inflammation: An overactivated immune system.
    • Lymphedema: Fluid buildup in your lymphatic system.
    • Hydrocele: Swelling and fluid buildup in the scrotum.
    • Edema: Swelling and fluid buildup in your arms, legs, breasts and female genitals (vulva).
  • Treatment:
    • Elimination of lymphatic filariasis is possible by stopping the spread of the infection through preventive chemotherapy.
    • The WHO-recommended preventive chemotherapy strategy for lymphatic filariasis elimination is mass drug administration (MDA).
    • MDA involves administering an annual dose of medicines to the entire at-risk population.
    • The medicines used have a limited effect on adult parasites but effectively reduce the density of microfilariae in the bloodstream and prevent the spread of parasites to mosquitoes.

 

Global Initiatives to Eradicate Lymphatic Filariasis

  • WHO’s road map 2021−2030: Sets global targets and milestones to prevent, control, eliminate or eradicate 20 diseases.
  • Global Programme to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis (GPELF): WHO established this to stop the transmission of infection by mass drug administration (MDA) of anthelmintics and to alleviate the suffering of people affected by the disease through morbidity management and disability prevention (MMDP).

 


Q1) What is the lymphatic system?

The lymphatic system is a crucial part of the body's circulatory and immune systems. It is a network of vessels, nodes, and organs that work together to transport a clear fluid called lymph throughout the body, aiding in the removal of waste, toxins, and excess fluids from tissues. The lymphatic system also plays a significant role in the body's immune response by housing and producing white blood cells called lymphocytes, which help fight infections and diseases.

Source: India committed to eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis by 2027: Mandaviya