Elephantiasis Infection

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Elephantiasis is a mutilating infection caused by obstruction of the lymphatic vessels and affects a massive number of people living in endemic regions and is spread by mosquitoes that take microfilariae in a blood meal. About 15 million people internationally are affected by lymphatic filariasis associated lymphoedema that involves inflammation of the extremities, breasts, and genitals (Allen 66). Approximately 25 million males are impinging on urogenital inflammation, mainly scrotal hydrocoele even though these medical symptoms are frequently not critical. However, they cause lymphatic filariasis which is ranked as one of the worlds prime cause of enduring and long-term disability. World Health Organization (WHO) consequently established the International Program to eliminate lymphatic filariasis by establishing a project which involves an inclusive approach based on two fundamental mechanisms: disrupting the spread of lymphatic filariasis through mass drug administration, controlling morbidity and avoiding disability (Gratama 24). This paper is a discussion of the cause, treatment, diagnosis, and control of Elephantiasis.

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Elephantiasis is caused by Wuchereria bancrofi and Brugia malayi parasitic filarial worms that live within the lumen of lymphatic vessels. These worms affect the bodys immune system by disrupting the networks of nodes and vessels that sustain the fluid balance between the bodys tissues and blood. The parasites survive in the body for roughly four to six years and lay millions of minute larvae that flow in the blood. Transmission comes about through mosquitoes, which bite infected individuals and pick the worm larvae, also called microfilariae that grow in the infective phase within 7-21 days. The microfilariae then moves to the mosquito mouthy and biting parts. When the mosquito persists in biting people the microfilariae is injected into their blood stream thus replicating and distributing throughout the bloodstream. The build-up of parasites in the blood vessels restricts circulation resulting in swelling and accumulation of the surrounding tissues of the skin (Manson 32). The signs of the disease occasionally do not occur until years after infection. Research shows that there is no definite reason for that, but awful symptoms typically emerge in adults, and more often men. WHO estimates that in populations where elephantiasis is rampant, 10-50% of men suffer from genital damage including hydrocoele which occurs when the scrotum becomes full with a fluid substance.

Technically, elephantiasis is the hardening and thickening of the skin followed by swelling of the limbs and genitals. Elephantiasis also causes skin ulcers. The skin may become warty and cracked allowing bacteria to affect the open wounds thereby complicating the condition (Allen 67). Diagnosis of lymphatic filariasis is commonly diagnosed in an individual whose resides in an endemic region and has lymphedema in the limbs or genitalia. Ultimate diagnosis has traditionally relied upon microscopically examining the features of microfilariae in the blood. Treatment is recommended for all patients even the patients with symptomatic infection because they may have uncharacteristic lymphatics and there is growing confirmation that early treatment may avoid subsequent lymphatic damage.

The treatment option for such patients is through the use of Diethylcarbamazine (DEC) which has the ability to incorporate macrofilaricidal (adult worm) and microfilaricidal properties. DEC decrease the occurrence of filarial lymphangitis, although it is incomprehensive whether this reverses the existing substantial damage (Allen 68). In men, the effectiveness of treatment can be checked by serial ultrasound or blood samples examinations. Given that DEC is partly effective against the adult worm, recurring treatment is often necessary which is done every 6-12 months. Apart from the use of anthelminthic drugs, some treatments modalities help progress the chronic sequelae of Lymphatic filariasis counting lymphedema and to decrease the level of microfilariae in the blood for a continuous time. Due to the role of mosquitoes, the occurrence of elephantiasis is continuing to amplify in tropical and subtropical regions where the infection is well established. Based on the findings of WHO, one of the leading cause of Elephantiasis is the rapid and unplanned development of cities that build ultimate breeding sites of mosquitoes.

Chronic and acute symptoms have a tendency to develop at an increased rate amongst newcomers in areas where elephantiasis is widespread because they have no built up immunity to the disease. Researchers document that the microfilaremia is primarily detected in children 5-10 years old living in endemic areas. However, breast-feeding and trans-placental immunity may limit the intensity of the disease in younger individuals. The occurrences of microscopically established infection steadily increases up to the age of 30-40 years. The most significant determinant of community incidence of filariasis is the presence of exposure to the third-stage larvae. Deterrence depends upon the management of mosquito vectors which has had inadequate victory because mosquitoes develop resistance to insecticides. To lessen suffering and reduce the disability caused by elephantiasis, the most important approach established is to reduce resulting bacterial and fungal infections of the affected extremities and genitals. These comprise: meticulous local hygiene, judicious use of antibiotics, health education and physiotherapy (Parker 43).


Elephantiasis is a public health predicament because the disease damages the lymphatic system escalating the threats for secondary infections and complications. All federal programs must control morbidity and stop disability by eradicating elephantiasis. This involves care of those infected even after disruption of transmission. Patients with medical and social consequences have a right to health care, and this is the duty of national eradication programs. The most important reason for controlling morbidity is to mitigate suffering. In addition, to prevent disability, people with lymphatic filariasis should have contact with psychological and social support to aid their reintegration into the general public and economic life.

Works Cited

Allen, Roger K., and Terrence W. Leveck. "Elephantiasis nostras verrucosa." The Journal of dermatologic surgery and oncology 6.1 (1980): 65-68.

Gratama, Sibrand. Onchocerciasis in the South-Eastern Territories of Liberia: With Studies on the Role of Onchocerca Volvulus and Wuchereria Bancrofti in the Pathogenesis of Hydrocele and Elephantiasis. Zwolle: Tjeenk Willink, 1996. Print.

Manson B, Philip H. Filariasis and Elephantiasis in Fiji: Being a Report to the London School of Tropical Medicine. London: Witherby, 2001. Print.

Parker, James N, and Philip M. Parker. Elephantiasis: A Medical Dictionary, Bibliography, and Annotated Research Guide to Internet References. San Diego, CA: ICON Health Publications, 2004. Print.

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