Lymphatic filariasis

Lymphatic filariasis, commonly known as elephantiasis, is a painful and profoundly disfiguring disease. It is caused by three species of thread-like nematode worms:

  • Wuchereria bancrofti
  • Brugia malayi
  • Brugia timori

The worms nest in the human lymphatic system and disrupt its normal function.

Lymphatic filariasis is a vector-borne disease, being transmitted by mosquitoes (e.g. Culex, Anopheles and Aedes mosquitoes). Infected individuals may be asymptomatic, with no external sign of infection. In chronic cases, visible manifestations of the disease (such as lymphoedema of the limbs, and swelling of the scrotum and penis in males) tend to occur later in life.

Antifilarial drugs can treat lymphatic filariasis, but in some cases surgery or other measures may be needed to treat affected individuals. Preventive therapy plays a key role in control efforts.

TDR related research

TDR field research and support played a key role in the Global Programme for Elimination of Lymphatic Filariasis (GPELF). The number of annual doses needed to break disease transmission was determined, and further research helped rural communities manage their drug administration and treatment through community health care workers. Together with donations of drugs such as ivermectin by Merck, and albendazole by GlaxoSmithKline, hundreds of millions of people have received the treatment they desperately need.

Past news

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