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Filariasis Elephantiasis

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What is Elephantiasis

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The roundworm of the family Filarioidea is responsible for causing a parasitic disease known as Filariasis. These filarial worms are transmitted into the body with the help of blood-feeding mosquitoes and black flies. Elephantiasis is medically named lymphatic filariasis. It is a tropical and very rare condition caused by parasitic worms. These parasitic worms are spread into the human body through the mosquito bites and as a result, skin gets swelled and becomes hard and thick in such a manner that it resembles an elephant’s skin. As the symptoms of infection include enlargement of the arms and legs and swelling which is the reason that it termed as elephantiasis.

Elephantiasis Symptoms

  • Asymptomatic, acute, and chronic conditions are involved in the infection of filariasis elephantiasis. As most of the infections are asymptomatic which will not show any kind of external signs or symptoms of the disease while contributing to the parasite transmission. 

  • Despite that, these asymptomatic infections will cause damage internally in the body including the lymphatic system and the kidney.

  • When filariasis elephantiasis develops a chronic condition then it leads to tissue swelling (lymphoedema of limbs) and scrotal swelling (hydrocele).  People with elephantiasis experience swelling in

  1. legs

  2. Arms

  3. Genitals

  4. Breasts

  • The immune system is impaired due to damage of lymph nodes and lymph vessels i.e overall lymphatic system.

  • A person tends to get prone to repeated bacterial infections of the skin. As a result, the skin becomes thick, dry, and ulcerated.

  • During repeated bacterial, there are some other symptoms such as fever and chills.

Elephantiasis Prevention

Avoiding the mosquito bite is the best means suggested preventing elephantiasis. Individuals living or visiting a country that is at high risk include Africa, South America.

Individuals should follow the precautions mentioned below 

  • Make sure to cover up their skin especially legs and arms with long trousers and sleeves.

  • Must sleep under a mosquito net.

  • Use insect repellent.

Elephantiasis Treatment

One of the painful diseases caused by mosquitoes is elephantiasis. People suffering from an active infection can take drugs or medications to destroy the worms present in the bloodstream. However, These medications are able to prevent the spread of the infection to others. But, all of these parasites are not completely killed off by these drugs.

Antiparasitic drugs that are used as a treatment to prevent this infection are mentioned below

  • Albendazole (Albenza)

  • Doxycycline

Rest of the symptoms may be managed with the use of the following medications

  • Anti-histamines

  • Antibiotics

  • Analgesics

Not everyone needs proper medication as they do not carry the worms for a longer period in their system, even if the symptoms are present. In these cases, skin infections and the swelling is managed by:

  • Gently washing the swollen area daily with soap and water.

  • Moisturizing the skin

  • Use medicated creams on sore wounds to prevent secondary infections.

  • Walk and exercise regularly when possible to support the lymphatic system.

  • To prevent further swelling, make sure to elevate the limbs when lying down.

Infection can also be treated by using  DEC along with the medicines known as ivermectin.  This combination shows long-term effects. so, it should be used once a year.

In rare cases, surgery can also be suggested to remove damaged lymphatic tissue. It can also be recommended for mitigating pressure in specific areas, like the scrotum.

Elephantiasis Diagnosis 

To diagnose elephantiasis, a doctor will surely ask the person to perform a physical examination. He will also enquire about the medical history and symptoms of the person.

In order to confirm a parasitic infection, a blood examination is always applicable. At night, these roundworms are most active in most parts of the world. According to the recommendation of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the blood sample must be collected during the night. To rule out other symptoms like the cause of the swelling some ultrasound tests and x-rays can be done to detect the parasites. Alternative tests can also be applied but as these symptoms develop a few years after the initial infection so, as an outcome they may show negative results.

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FAQs on Filariasis Elephantiasis

1. Elephantiasis is Caused By Which Worm?

Three parasitic worms also are known as filarial worms are responsible for causing Elephantiasis which includes:

  • Wuchereria Bancrofti:- This parasite contributes around 90% of the cases of this disease.

  • Brugia Timori:- Also, responsible for causing the disease.

  • Brugia Malayi:- This parasite is responsible for causing the remaining cases of the disease.

In humans, toxins and wastes of the body are removed by the lymphatic system. This system is affected by the worms which result in blockage of the lymphatic system. Hence, it's unable to perform its function. Lymphatic fluid is accumulated and as a result, it causes swelling.

When the infected person is bitten by the infected Anopheles mosquitoes, then an adult worm is developed by moving the larvae called microfilariae into the lymph nodes.

2. Elephantiasis is Caused By Which Mosquito?

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  • On the basis of geographical area,  a broad range of mosquitoes can transmit the parasite into the human body. 

  • The genera of Anopheles is the most common vector in Africa.  

  • In America, the vector is Culex quinquefasciatus. The infection is transmitted by Aedes and Mansonia in the Pacific. These mosquitoes are responsible for transmitting the infective larvae of the parasites that cause elephantiasis.  

  • When mosquitoes seize a blood feed from an infected individual then itself becomes an infected one with roundworm larvae.

  • These mosquitoes then bite a healthy person and as a result, the larvae are passed into their bloodstream. 

  • Finally, the worm gets matured in the lymphatic system by migrating through the bloodstream into the lymphatics.

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