Davao region was once an endemic area for Lymphatic Filariasis. In 2019, Davao was considered Filariasis free - which is a result of effective prevention, awareness and eradication campaigns which led to this success. This November, NNC Davao in its observance of the Lymphatic Filariasis Awareness Month, is joining the Health Department in continuously promoting awareness and preventive efforts against Lymphatic Filariasis.
Lymphatic Filariasis is also known as elephantiasis which is a parasitic infection by roundworms such as Wuchereria bancrofti and Brugia malayi which are transmitted through mosquitoes. The parasites can be from reservoir hosts such as cats or infected humans which the mosquito ingests when they take a blood meal. The parasites are transmitted to another person through an infected mosquito. Once inside, the parasites develop into mature worms and lodge into the lymphatic system which usually drains excess fluid from the extremities. Once these draining systems are blocked, it causes edema or swelling of the extremities and in chronic cases - severe swelling of the extremities which leads to elephantiasis. Elephantiasis can be disfiguring or debilitating and may affect an individual’s mental health and livelihood. Thus, this condition must be prevented and treated early to prevent these consequences.
Prevention of infection starts with awareness of endemic areas, destruction of mosquito breeding sites, control of transmission through mass administration of antiparasitic medications and care for those affected by the disease through hygiene education programs.
If filarial infection is suspected, a blood test can be done to confirm the infection and can be treated with antiparasitic medications such as the combination of Diethylcarbamazine citrate (DEC) and Albendazole or Ivermectin and Albendazole. It is expected to experience mild and transient side effects from the medications due to the body’s response to the dying worms. These side effects include temporary fever, nausea or headache. These side effects may be more prominent for individuals with greater parasite infection.
In terms of nutritional support for individuals with lymphatic filariasis, a 2002 study by Friis et al. showed that individuals with lymphatic filariasis had lower Vitamin E and Vitamin A levels in their blood which is probably due to the depletion of these vitamins since they are used in scavenging free radicals or harmful substances produced by the infection inside the body. Thus, Vitamin A and Vitamin E rich foods as well as foods rich in Vitamin C may help support the immune system and in faster recovery from the infection during treatment.
Infection can also be prevented by destroying or sealing mosquito breeding sites such as latrines, sewage and ditches. Stagnant water from axils of plants, empty containers and old tires must also be drained or removed. Aside from destruction of breeding sites, other personal preventive measures include:
● Use of topical mosquito repellents or lotion
● Use of mosquito nets
● Insecticide residual spraying
● Being assessed for possible asymptomatic infection and taking preventive anti-parasitic medications to prevent transmission of parasites through mosquito bites
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” - Benjamin Franklin
• Belizario, V.Y. & dE Leon, W.U. (2015). Medical Parasitology in the Philippines, 3rd ed. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press.
• PTV Davao (2019). NEWS BREAK: Davao City, giilang lymphatic filariasis-free. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=378124529542791
• Department of Health COTABATO Sanitarium. (n.d.). November is Filariasis and Malaria Awareness Month. GOVPH. Retrieved from https://cotsan.doh.gov.ph/articles/health-education-and-promotion/86-november-is-filariasis-and-malaria-awareness-month.
• Friis, H., Kæstel, P., Nielsen, N., & Simonsen, P. E. (2002). Serum ferritin, α-tocopherol, β-carotene and retinol levels in lymphatic filariasis. Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 96(2), 151-156.