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What Are the Different Types of Filariasis Treatment?

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  • Written By: B. Chisholm
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Images By: Rob Byron, Blueringmedia, Yasser, Hikrcn, Nik_Merkulov
  • Last Modified Date: 26 November 2016
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There are a number of filarial diseases caused by different parasitic worm species. Each type causes different symptoms and affects different parts of the body. The best filariasis treatment is chosen accordingly. The most commonly used drugs for filariasis treatment are diethylcarbamazine and ivermectin, sometimes in combination with albendazole. The attending medical practitioner will select the best filariasis treatment according to the site, symptoms and causative organism.

Filariasis is an infectious tropical parasitic disease and is caused by filarial nematodes, which are thin, thread-like worms. There are various organisms that may cause filariasis. These include Wucheria bancrofti, Brugia timori and Brugia malayi, which cause lymphatic filariasis; Loa loa, which causes loasis; Mansonela streptocerca, which causes subcutaneous filariasis; and Onchocerca volvulus, which causes onchocerciasis.

Filariasis is transmitted from human host to human host in the larval form via blood by biting insects like mosquitoes and flies, and may affect different parts of the body. The worms mature in the body in the course of 12 months. Once mature, they reproduce, releasing microfilariae. The adult worms can live in their human host for years, so filariasis treatment often requires repeating.

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Lymphatic filariasis occurs when the lymphatic system becomes blocked and damaged by the worms. If left untreated, this may develop into elephantiasis. This is when parts of the body, such as the limbs or scrotum, swell enormously. The condition is often referred to, incorrectly, as elephantitis. It is both disfiguring and painful and may result in secondary infections.

Filarial infections of the eye may lead to permanent blindness. Onchocerciasis is commonly known as "river blindness." Filariasis treatment is essential to prevent these long term, serious effects.

Filariasis treatment can be either diethylcarbamazine or ivermectin with albendazole. Diethylcarbamazine rapidly clears microfilaremia for a long time, but has a slower effect on the adult worms, necessitating repeated doses. Ivermectin used as a single dose reduces microfilarial levels over a long period, although re-treatment is required at three to 12 month intervals until the adult worms have been eradicated. Albendazole, though not used for onchocerciasis, may be effective as an adjunct for other filarial infections, due to its effect on the adult worms.

For lymphatic filariasis treatment, diethylcarbamazine or ivermectin with albendazole may be given as a yearly dose for five years. Doxycycline has also been used to treat Onchocerca volvulus and Wucheria bancrofti, as it may interrupt production of microfilariae by causing sterility in the female nematode or worm. It is used as a daily dose for six weeks. The choice of filariasis treatment will be established by the attending doctor.

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