Lymphatic Filariasis

2020 Target

Global elimination

Global burden

There is widespread social and economic discrimination against those who suffer from elephantiasis, resulting in an estimated $1.3 billion in lost productivity annually.

Lymphatic filariasis (LF) is a mosquito-borne worm disease usually acquired in childhood that manifests clinically in late childhood and early adulthood. When the worms grow large enough, they block the lymphatic system, potentially leading to lymph fluid buildup that causes radical, disfiguring swelling of limbs and genitals known as elephantiasis.

Strategy for Elimination / Eradication / Control

There are two main components to the lymphatic filariasis elimination strategy:

  • interrupting transmission of lymphatic filariasis
  • managing morbidity and preventing disability

There are three drugs currently in use as a preventative tool or for treatment of LF: albendazole, ivermectin and DEC. Albendazole is administered in combination with either ivermectin or DEC through mass drug administration (MDA) programs to prevent people from acquiring LF. Each of these treatments targets the immature form of the worm, and must be given annually to prevent ongoing transmission until the adult worm dies naturally. Regions with high co-endemic levels of LF and Loa loa disease cannot use current treatments due to the potential for adverse effects. Elimination efforts would be helped if a drug to kill the adult form of the worm was developed, which would alleviate the need to annually treat people for LF. Treatment options for Loa loa areas would also greatly help in achieving the 2020 elimination target. Managing morbidity efforts include hydrocele surgery and home based care and support for lymphedema patients.