Filariasis in Nigeria: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

Filariasis in Nigeria

Filariasis, otherwise known as elephantiasis, is a disfiguring and disabling disease, triggered by a parasitic infection of one of the three nematodes (roundworms): Wuchereria bancrofti, Brugia malayi, or Brugia timori.

The tropical disease usually occurs when filarial parasites are spread into the human body through infected mosquitoes. 

Furthermore, these microscopic worms can live for about 7 years in the lymphatic system, causing a lot of damages therein. [1]

Again, the vast majority of people living with Lymphatic filariasis rarely experience any symptoms, except for some rare cases where the patients may develop extreme lymphedema, swelling scrotal, myriads of secondary infections, and even permanent disability.

Some of the regions with the highest prevalence of Lymphatic filariasis include Southeast Asia, Africa, the Pacific islands, and certain parts of the Caribbean and Latin America.

Now that you’ve discovered what Lymphatic filariasis is, it is equally important to know other things about the tropical disease, such as its basic symptoms, causes, as well as how it can be prevented.

These, and more are what you will learn after reading this article. Therefore, read through.

Filariasis in Nigeria


  • In the year 2,000, more than 120 million people were diagnosed with filariasis, with up to 40 million disfigured and incapacitated by the infectious tropical disease.
  • Presently, over 1.3 billion people across certain parts of the world are at risk of developing filariasis.
  • Filariasis may damage the lymphatic system and can result in the abnormal enlargement of certain body parts, along with pain and severe disability.
  • Filariasis can be eliminated by preventive chemotherapy with safe medicine combinations.
  • Preventive chemotherapy is no longer the only way to prevent filariasis, as there are a number of strategies suggested by the World Health Organization [WHO].
  • Nigeria are believed to have the highest burden if Lymphatic Filariasis in Africa, with about 80 to 120 million people at risk of getting the disease. [Source]


Some filariasis patients have no symptoms. However, some other affected individuals may witness any of the following:

  • Acute inflammation of lymphatic vessels or genitalia (lymphangitis) 
  • Abnormally enlarged lymphatic vessels (varices) 
  • Tissue swelling (lymphoedema)
  • Shaking chills
  • Body aches
  • Sperm ducts (epididymitis)
  • High white blood cells (eosinophilia)
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Excessive fluid in the affected areas (edema)
  • Swollen and painful scrotum
  • Inflammation, pain, and swelling of the testes (orchitis), 
  • Sperm track (funiculitis)
  • High temperatures
  • Chronic lymph node swelling (lymphadenopathy) 


Filariasis is often caused by Wuchereria bancrofti any of the roundworm parasites (nematode) of the family Filariodidea, namely Wuchereria bancrofti, Brugia malayi, or Brugia timori. 

The infectious tropical disease is transmitted by different types of mosquitoes, which include but not limited to Culex, Mansonia, Anopheles, or Aedes mosquitoes. [2]


Filariasis treatment in Nigeria
Filariasis treatment in Nigeria

Although there are several treatments for filariasis in Nigeria, the most common medications include:

1. Ivermectin (Mectizan)

Ivermectin, otherwise known as Mectizan, is one of the most common treatments for Lymphatic filariasis. It contains macrofilaricidal properties and is considered a great microfilaricide against W bancrofti and O volvulus.

Additionally, the antiparasitic properties in Ivermectin are potent enough such that they can help regulate the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors as well as the inhibitory signals sent to motor neurons. This, in return, helps to inhibit the activities of this potentially harmful parasite. [3]

2. Moxidectin

Moxidectin is yet another effective treatment for Lymphatic filariasis, and onchocerciasis. Multiple studies reveal that it helps to improve skin microfilarial density by a significant margin. 

That said, it will interest you to know that there are several publications backing it that Moxidectin exhibits almost the same effect as the popular anti-filariasis medication; Ivermectin.

3. Diethylcarbamazine (Hetrazan)

Diethylcarbamazine contains powerful microfilaricidal and macrofilaricidal properties, which are potent enough to treat lymphatic filariasis and other related conditions. 

In addition to that, reports show that Diethylcarbamazine also stimulates antibody-dependent and -independent mechanisms to help enhance adhesion of granulocytes in the body.

4. Doxycycline (Doxy 100)

Doxycycline is a synthetically derived bacteriostatic antibiotic and belongs to the tetracycline class. It targets a filariasis-causing bacterium called ‘Wolbachia’ to help treat lymphatic filariasis. Part of the benefits of taking this medication is that it helps hinder protein synthesis and the growth of bacteria in the body simply by binding certain ribosomal subunits of susceptible bacteria.

Other treatments for lymphatic filariasis in Nigeria

  • Suramin
  • Albendazole
  • Mebendazole


Below are some tips for preventing filariasis:

  • Always sleep in an air-conditioned room or under a mosquito net at night.
  • Avoid wearing short sleeves and trousers that expose your body to mosquitoes.
  • Fortify your windows and doors with nets to block mosquitoes from entering.
  • Use mosquito repellent on any part of your body that is exposed.
  • Anti-microscopic-worm medicines should be distributed to mosquito-prone areas.
  • Keep your Gutters and Drainages clean always.
  • Avoid keeping dirty swamps and stagnant dirty water around your house.
  • Always cut the grasses around your house.
  • Wash your hands properly as and when due.
  • Apply repellents and fumigate as often as you possibly can.

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