The Problem of Filarial Disease
A systematic review of filarial disease
Harsh Mohan, Poonam Bhaker | | Longer Read
Filariasis is a major global cause of health problems. Transmitted via flies or mosquitoes, filarial disease can affect cutaneous, ocular, or lymphatic tissues. Diagnosis is established by observing microfilariae in peripheral blood and skin snips; their characteristic morphologic features not only help with diagnosis, but also provide insight into the pathogenesis of disease.
The term “filariasis” may seem remote to some – but for others in the medical field, it is far too close to home. Filariasis refers to a group of neglected tropical diseases caused by nematodes of the superfamily Filarioidea, transmitted through arthropod vectors. These diseases are classified as lymphatic or cutaneous/ocular filariasis based on which tissues are the primary home of adult worms (1). It is estimated that over 120 million people are infected worldwide, 40 million of whom are disfigured or incapacitated by the disease. The social, psychological, and economic burden of filariasis – amounting to a loss of 2.8 million Disability Adjusted Life Years annually (2) – is clear. The World Health Organization has committed to eliminating lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem by 2020 – and river blindness, a cutaneous/ocular form of the disease by 2025 – by i) mass drug administration in endemic regions and ii) targeting the vectors to halt transmission (3,4). However, even regions that have eliminated filariasis may see its re-emergence due to travel in and out of the area (5).
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