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filariasis - elephantiasis HELP!

Richard Speare Richard.Speare at jcu.edu.au
Wed Oct 30 19:52:48 EST 1996

Dear Panos

On Wed, 30 Oct 1996, Mr P Vagenas wrote:

> Hi everybody!
> Could someone tell me what is the difference between
> filariasis and elephantiasis? Is elephantiasis just a long
> term symptom of filariasis?
> Thanks a lot! :)
> Panos Vagenas
> (p.vagenas at ic.ac.uk)

Filariasis is the state of being infected with a filarial nematode of
which there are quite a number in humans and other animals.

Elephantiasis is a chronic clinical manifestation of infection with a
member of a group of filarial nematodes that inhabit lymphatics. 
Infection with this group of nematodes is called lymphatic filariasis. The
nematodes in humans are Wucheria bancrofti, Brugia malayi, Brugia timori,
but most cases of lymphatic filariasis are due to W. bancrofti. Clinical
symptoms can range from asymptomatic (no symptoms, although pathological
changes are present) to the chronic end stage disease elephantiasis.
Elephantiasis appears as a permanent enlargment of a limb, scrotum, vulva,
or breast.  Lymphatic channels are obstructed, and scar tissue is
increased in the affected portion. Skin infection is very common and
usually makes the changes worse. It is a very deforming disease and
probably was called elephantiasis because of the enlargement and the
chronic changes in the skin (thickening) of the affected appendage. The
changes of elephantiasis rarely regress even with treatment to kill the
parasite.  Apart from this end stage of infection, people with lymphatic
filariasis have a range of other symptoms that make it quite a significant
disease in terms of morbidity. 

Hence measures to kill the filarial nematodes before the host develops
elephantiasis, or to prevent transmission of the nematodes are very
important.  Administration of ivermectin and DEC once a year to whole
populations in endemic areas will prevent transmission, and if continued
long enough may eradicate the parasite from the population.


Rick Speare

Department of Public Health and Tropical Medicine
James Cook University

Phone:	-61-(0)77-225700
Fax:	-61-(0)77-225788
email:	Richard.Speare at jcu.edu.au

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