Filariasis is a parasitic disease transmitted by blood-feeding arthropods, mainly black flies, roundworms and mosquitoes. The mosquitoes that carry the microscopic worms usually bite between the hours of dusk and dawn. This infection or filariasis symptoms can cause a number of serious health concerns in the form of lymphoedema of the limbs, genital disease (such as swelling of the scrotum and penis) along with high fever. Therefore, one needs to understand What is Filariasis, i.e. it isn’t a life-threatening infection but it can certainly cause a lasting damage to the lymphatic system along with its different types of Filariasis.
What is Filariasis?
Filariasis is a parasitic infection caused by thread-like roundworm belonging to the family of Filarioidea. This infection can be widely seen in tropical countries such as sub-saharan Africa, Brazil, Southern Asia, the western Pacific islands and Guyana. The filarial roundworms are transmitted and spread by blood-feeding flies, roundworms and mosquitoes. Upon entering the body the larvae of the worm accumulate and form nests in an organ. After accumulating, they start to multiply rapidly causing chronic inflammation of that organ. This gives you a brief crux of what is filariasis, now let’s discuss the two types of filariasis.
Types of Filariasis
Eight types of filarial roundworms (nematodes) are known to use humans as their host and these are further divided into two different kinds of filariasis depending on the infecting parasite that affect different parts of the body. These two common types of Filariasis are as following:
- Lymphatic Filariasis
Here, the lymphatic system especially the lymph nodes are infected by Wuchereria bancrofti, Brugia malayi and Brugia timori. Serious cases of lymphatic filariasis lead to elephantiasis i.e. a profoundly disfiguring disease where parts of the body swell up. One of the serious cause for concern regarding this filariasis is that this infection may be acquired during childhood, however, it’s visible manifestations may occur later in life that may eventually lead to temporary or permanent disability. Since, the lymphatic system is an essential component of the body’s immune system, a disbalance in the same can hamper your immune system.
- Subcutaneous Filariasis
This infection involves the subcutaneous tissue or the subcutaneous fat layer under the skin and is caused by the worms Loa loa, Onchocerca volvulus, Mansonella streptocerca, and Dracunculus medinensis (guinea worm) which are responsible for river blindness.
What is filariasis and what are it’s symptoms? One of the most common symptoms of filariasis is Endema that may develop into elephantiasis, wherein the body parts are swelled up to great proportions. Given below are symptoms of the two different types of Filariasis
- Lymphatic Filariasis Symptoms
Most people develop the given clinical manifestations years after being infected.
- Elephantiasis i.e. fluid collection and swelling
- Decreased immune system
- Men can develop swelling of the scrotum
- Tropical Pulmonary Eosinophilia Syndrome
- Skin rashes
- Subcutaneous Filariasis Symptoms
- Skin rashes
- River Blindness
Also read about Lymphoma: Causes and Risk Factors
Diagnosis and Treatment
Proper treatment is adviced based on the types of filariasis along with its symptoms. Diagnosis of Filariasis is confirmed when a blood film shows the presence of microfilariae which are identified using a stain called Geimsa stain. Alternatively, the diagnostic methods include polymerase chain reaction and antigenic assays. The principal treatment which is a tried and tested method for years, involves managing filariasis by the use of diethylcarbamazine agent that kills the microfiliae. We hope this article helped you understanding what is filariasis along with its types, symptoms and treatment options available.