|Fact sheet No 102: Lymphatic Filariasis - Rev. September 2000 (WHO, 2000, 3 p.)|
Communities where filariasis is endemic. The primary goal of treating the affected community is to eliminate microfilariae from the blood of infected individuals so that transmission of the infection by the mosquito can be interrupted. Recent studies have shown that single doses of diethylcarbamazine (DEC) have the same long-term (1-year) effect in decreasing microfilaraemia as the formerly-recommended 12-day regimens of DEC and, even more importantly, that the use of single doses of 2 drugs administered concurrently (optimally albendazole with DEC or ivermectin) is 99% effective in removing microfilariae from the blood for a full year after treatment. It is this level of treatment effectiveness that has made feasible the new efforts to eliminate lymphatic filariasis.
Treating the individual. Both albendazole and DEC have been shown to be effective in killing the adult-stage filarial parasites (necessary for complete cure of infection), but ideal treatment regimens still need to be defined. It is clear that this anti-parasite treatment can result in improvement of patients' elephantiasis and hydrocoele (especially in the early stages of disease), but the most significant treatment advance to alleviate the suffering of those with elephantiasis has come from recognizing that much of the progression in pathology results from bacterial and fungal "superinfection" of tissues with compromised lymphatic function caused by earlier filarial infection. Thus, rigorous hygiene to the affected limbs, with accompanying adjunctive measures to minimize infection and promote lymph flow, results both in a dramatic reduction in frequency of acute episodes of inflammation ("filarial fevers") and in an astonishing degree of improvement of the elephantiasis itself.