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Reindeers Could Hold the Key to Elephantiasis Cure

mphatic filariasis causes enlargement of the entire leg or arm, the genitals, vulva and breasts.

In endemic communities, 10-50% of men and up to 10% of women can be affected. The psychological and social stigma associated with these aspects of the disease are immense. In addition, even more common than the overt abnormalities is hidden, internal damage to the kidneys and lymphatic system caused by the filariae.

The thread-like, parasitic filarial worms Wuchereria bancrofti and Brugia malayi that cause lymphatic filariasis live almost exclusively in humans. These worms lodge in the lymphatic system, the network of nodes and vessels that maintain the delicate fluid balance between the tissues and blood and are an essential component for the body's immune defence system.

They live for 4-6 years, producing millions of immature microfilariae (minute larvae) that circulate in the blood. The disease is transmitted by mosquitoes that bite infected humans and pick up the microfilariae that develop, inside the mosquito, into the infective stage in a process that usually takes 7-21 days.

The larvae then migrate to the mosquitoes' biting mouth-parts, ready to enter the punctured skin following the mosquito bite, thus completing the cycle. Medical studies of the 1990s showed that the best opportunity for eliminating lymphatic filariasis is through medicines-combinations of the inexpensively purchased diethylcarbamazine (DEC) and the donated albendazole and Mectizan? (ivermectin).

The principal goal of treating affected communities is to eliminate the microfilariae from the blood of infected individuals so that transmission of infection by the mosquito can be interrupted The WHO says it is crucial to implement community education programmes to raise awareness in affected patients. This would promote the benefits of intensive local hygiene and the possible improvement, both in the damage that has already occurred, and in preventing the debil
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